Shift work may dull your brain
Working on shift hours for 10 or more years can have a negative impact on a person’s cognitive abilities, according to a new study published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
Shift work has been known to disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm and affect many parts of the body, including the brain, heart, and reproductive systems.
For the latest study, researchers analyzed a sample of 3,000 people from patient lists of three different doctors and tracked their cognitive abilities in 1996, 2001, and 2006, using assessment tests for long and short-term memory, processing speed, and overall cognitive ability. The patients were between 30 to 60 years old, with 1,484 people reporting working shifts for at least 50 days of the year. Around 20 percent of those who were working and those who had retired, reported working a shift pattern that rotated between morning, afternoon, and night shifts.
Researchers found that those who currently or previously worked in shifts scored lower than those working normal office hours in the assessment tests. They also found that those who worked in a rotating shift pattern for 10 or more years had significantly lower overall cognitive and memory scores than those who had never worked in those environments, scores that are equivalent to 6.5 years of age-related decline in cognitive processing.
The researchers acknowledged that the study was observational, but suggested measures be taken to better accommodate shift workers so their declining health risk could be reduced.