An international group of researchers has investigated how shift work affects the risk of COVID-19 and the severity of the infection.

Researchers surveyed 7,141 workers from 16 countries about their work conditions and, if they had been infected with the coronavirus, how severe the infection was. 

Compared to daytime workers, shift workers did not have a higher risk of getting infected. First author Bjørn Bjorvatn, PhD, explains this by the fact that the virus is very contagious, and the infection rate in the general society is high. “Shift workers are not likely to be exposed to more virus than day workers,” he says in a release.

But once infected with COVID, shift workers had an almost six-fold higher risk of being hospitalized.

“Other studies show that the response to vaccination is poorer in sleep-deprived individuals. Therefore, shift workers should take their vaccines after a good night sleep,” Bjorvatn says.

The study, published in the journal Chronobiology International, also investigated whether working face-to-face with others impacts the risk of COVID-19 and the severity of the infection.

The survey found that those who worked close to their coworkers had a higher risk of infection from COVID-19, likely due to increased exposure to the virus. “However, they did not have a higher risk of getting a more severe outcome of the infection, compared to those not working face-to-face with others,” says Bjorvatn, who is a professor of medicine at the department of Global Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Bergen in Norway.

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