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Shift workers more likely to get COVID-19, hospitalised


PEOPLE who work shifts appear to be significantly more likely to end up in hospital with COVID-19 than people who have regular work patterns, according to research published in the online British medical journal Thorax .

Professor Simon Anderson, director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at The University of the West Indies (UWI) is a joint first author of the journal paper entitled, ‘Shift work is associated with positive COVID-19 status in hospitalised patients’.

According to the study, “Globally, shift work is becoming increasingly common, with 10 per cent to 40 per cent of workers in most countries doing so.” A press statement issued by Thorax states that shift work is associated with lung disease and infections, so the study investigated the impact of shift work on significant COVID-19 illness. The research was conducted using the UK Biobank Resource, funded by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre. It details that data, on more than 280,000 participants aged 40 to 69, were used in the UK Biobank study, together with data from other resources such as Hospital Episode Statistics and GP records.

“Although the research undertaken is of a UK perspective, shift work and its bio-psycho-social consequences within the Caribbean context might benefit from implementing safety protocols and ongoing training that reduces the risk of COVID-19 amongst individuals who are shift workers,” said Professor Anderson.

In the paper, the researchers concluded that, “We show that there is an increased likelihood of COVID-19 in shift workers that is comparable with known COVID-19 risk factors. We would advocate that shift work is treated as a modifiable risk factor for COVID-19. Sensible precautions in the workplace for shift workers might include increased after-hours training and supervision on safety protocols, increased cleaning schedules, reduced numbers of workers on any one shift, providing personal protective equipment to shift workers and targeting them for early COVID-19 vaccination programmes.”

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