Last reviewed 20 November 2020

A team of UK researchers has concluded that staff who work the night shift on a permanent basis face a higher likelihood of asthma, suggesting that the health and safety implications of the study are far reaching.

The research, published in the journal Thorax, and conducted by academics from the Universities of Oxford and Manchester, as well as other institutions in the USA, notes that 20% of workers in industrialised countries work permanent or rotating shifts.

This exposes workers to potential misalignment between the body’s internal circadian time and the external light/dark cycle and is associated with metabolic orders such as diabetes as well as certain cancers.

The researchers set out to examine the link between shift work and asthma using data from more than 280,000 participants in the UK.

They found that permanent night shift workers had a higher likelihood of moderate-severe asthma and indeed all asthma compared with day workers.

Individuals doing any type of shift work also had higher odds of wheeze or whistling in the chest.

The researchers concluded, “The public health implications of these findings are far-reaching due to the high prevalence and co-occurrence of both asthma and shift work.”

It has been estimated that asthma affects 339 million people worldwide and costs health and care services more than £1 billion in the UK alone.