Workers Health & Safety Centre

Shift work raises risk of heart attacks and strokes

Shift work raises risk of heart attacks and strokes

Working shifts increases the risk of suffering a major vascular event, including a stroke and heart attack, according to a new study led by Canadian researchers.  

A team of researchers analyzed 34 previously published studies focused on the links between shift work and cardiovascular “events”. They found shift work was associated with a 23 per cent increased risk of heart attack, 24 per cent increased risk of coronary event and five per cent increased risk of stroke.

Shift work is defined in this study as regular evening or night schedules, rotating shifts, split shifts, on-call or casual shifts, 24 hour shifts, irregular schedules and other non-day schedules.
 
Given the commonness of shift work in modern industrialized nations, and industrializing nations, many heart attacks and strokes are likely directly attributable to the effects of shift work," said lead researcher Dr. Daniel Hackam, a clinical pharmacologist at the Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre in London, Ontario, Canada.
 
Employers and employees must be aware of this problem, as should doctors and others who care for shift worker health, says Dr. Hackam.
 
Here in Canada, one in four workers work shifts. Industries and occupations relying heavily on shift work include health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and trade.
 
The Workers Health & Safety Centre has recently updated the Shift Work fact sheet exploring the risks to health faced by shift workers including major vascular events, cancer, excess workplace injuries along with mental health and work-life balance issues. Also highlighted are examples of strategies workplaces can implement to limit the risk to health posed by shift work. Also discussed are individual strategies for limiting health impacts. The limited protection afforded workers by Ontario and federal law is also outlined.
 

Want to read the WHSC Shift Work fact sheet?

Want to know about WHSC Hours of Work training that addresses the issue of shift work. This training also helps prepare workplace parties to act on their many workplace obligations to help control the potential risk to worker health? Call Toll Free 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a WHSC Training Services representative.