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An international team of scientists, including Professor David Ray, has found that shift workers, especially those working permanent night shifts, showed increased risks of asthma, especially moderate or severe asthma.

The study, led by the University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, tracked 280,000 UK Biobank participants to reveal that irregular night shift workers who are morning people (‘larks’), are at an increased risk of asthma compared to night shift workers who are evening people (‘night owls’).

The team compared the effect of day working with shift working on asthma diagnosis, lung function and symptoms using a statistical technique called odds ratios.

A diagnosis of moderate or severe asthma had an odds ratio of 1.36 in night shift workers, and 1.23 of any asthma diagnosis when compared to day workers. That indicates an association between night shift work and asthma.

An odds ratio of 1 means the odds are the same in the two groups and equivalent to no association between the exposure and the disease outcome’.

Individuals doing any type of shift work had higher adjusted odds of wheeze or whistling in the chest. Shift workers who never or rarely worked on nights and people working permanent nights had higher adjusted likelihood of having reduced lung function.

Though the biological mechanisms are unclear, previous mouse studies have shown that misalignment between the central body clock in the brain and other organs including the lungs - which have their own body clock – can increase the risk of inflammatory conditions.

Read more about the study on the University of Manchester website

Read the study

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