Link Between Night Shift and Asthma Risk Identified

by Colleen Fleiss on Nov 17 2020 6:24 AM

Link Between Night Shift and Asthma Risk Identified
Permanent night shift workers are at a heightened risk of moderate to severe asthma, suggested research published in Throax.
In the developed world, around 1 in 5 employees work permanent or rotating night shifts. Shift work //causes the circadian rhythm to be out of step with the light and dark cycle. This misalignment is linked to a heightened risk of various metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

The participants drew on medical, lifestyle, and employment information supplied between 2007 and 2010 by 286,825 participants in the UK Biobank.

The study participants were aged between 37 and 72, and either in paid employment or self-employed. 83% worked regular office hours, while 17% worked shifts, around 51% included night shifts.

Shift patterns comprised: never or occasional night shifts; irregular or rotating night shifts; and permanent night shifts.

Some 14,238 (around 5%) of all the study participants had asthma; in 4783 (nearly 2%) symptoms were moderate to severe (based on their medications).

The study analyzed the effect of working office hours with shift work on asthma diagnosis, lung function, and asthma symptoms.

The study revealed a 36% increase in the odds of having moderate to severe asthma in permanent night shift workers compared to those working normal office hours.

The odds of wheeze or airway whistling were 11-18% higher among those working any of the three shift patterns.

Lower lung function odds were around 20% higher in shift workers who never or rarely worked nights and in those working permanent night shifts.

The odds of moderate to severe asthma were 55% higher among larks working irregular shifts, including nights.

"Interestingly, chronotype does change with age, getting later through adolescence and then earlier as adults age, suggesting that older individuals might find it more difficult to adjust to night shift work than younger adults," they explain.

"There are no specific national clinical guidelines for how to manage asthma in shift workers," they highlight, but adapting shift work schedules to suit individual chronotype might be a worthwhile public health measure that is worth exploring further, they suggest.


  • Asthma affects 339 million people worldwide.
  • It costs health and care services more than £1billion in the UK alone.


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