UWI Professor Co-Authors COVID-19 Research that Reveals Shift Workers More Likely to be Hospitalised

Professor Simon Anderson

Professor Simon Anderson, Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at The UWI.

People who work shifts appear to be significantly more likely to end up in hospital with COVID-19, than people who have regular work patterns, suggests research published in the online British medical journal, Thorax.

Professor Simon Anderson, Director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at The University of the West Indies (The UWI) is a joint first author of the journal paper entitled, “Shift work is associated with positive COVID-19 status in hospitalized patients.”

According to the study, “Globally, shift work is becoming increasingly common, with 10% to 40% of workers in most countries doing so.” A press statement issued by Thorax states that shift work is associated with lung disease and infections, so the study investigated the impact of shift work on significant COVID-19 illness. The research was conducted using the UK Biobank Resource, funded by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre. It details that data on more than 280,000 participants aged 40 to 69 was used in the UK Biobank study, together with data from other resources such as Hospital Episode Statistics and GP records. 

Professor Anderson noted, “Although the research undertaken is of a UK perspective, shift work and its bio-psycho-social consequences within the Caribbean context, might benefit from implementing safety protocols and ongoing training that reduces the risk of COVID-19 amongst individuals who are shift workers”. 

In the paper, the researchers conclude, “We show that there is an increased likelihood of COVID-19 in shift workers that is comparable with known COVID-19 risk factors. We would advocate that shift work is treated as a modifiable risk factor for COVID-19. Sensible precautions in the workplace for shift workers might include increased after-hours training and supervision on safety protocols, increased cleaning schedules, reduced numbers of workers on any one shift, providing personal protective equipment to shift workers and targeting them for early COVID-19 vaccination programmes.”