People who work night shifts may be at higher risk of catching COVID-19 than their counterparts who work during daylight hours, new research suggests.
The team of researchers, from Australia, the UK and Denmark, found that people who worked night shifts were nearly twice as likely to catch COVID-19 as those who worked during the day.
Lead researcher Yaqoot Fatima from James Cook University said that was the average increased risk across all night shift workers, regardless of whether they worked in the healthcare sector or not, and regardless of their socio-economic status.
“Of course healthcare workers are at increased risk of catching COVID-19 due to their risk of exposure to the virus, but the odds of catching the virus was comparable across all night shift workers,” Dr Fatima said.
In all, the chance of any night shift worker catching the virus was 1.85 times that of their day shift counterparts. When healthcare workers were removed, night shift workers were still 1.81 times more likely to contract COVID-19.
Dr Fatima said while the study looks specifically at the data and does not suggest a cause for the higher rate of infection among night shift workers, it is well known that working night shift can throw out people’s natural circadian rhythms, potentially opening them up to infection.
“Other researchers have put forward the theory that disruption of circadian rhythms resulting from night shift working could predispose someone to be more at risk of infection with COVID-19,” Dr Fatima said.
“This could be a function of reduced melatonin levels, and poor immune response.”
The research’s publication comes as many countries, including Australia, juggle the initial phases of the rollout of vaccines, with priority given to frontline workers and those considered at higher risk of infection.