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Shift Work Tied to Negative Impact on Cognitive Functioning

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 25, 2023 -- Shift work may negatively impact cognitive functioning in middle-aged and older adults, according to a study published online Aug. 23 in PLOS ONE.

Durdana Khan, Ph.D., from York University in Toronto, and colleagues used data from 47,811 middle-aged and older adults (45 to 85 years) participating in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging to examine associations between shift work exposure and cognitive impairment. They evaluated three shift work variables: ever exposed to shift work, shift work exposure in longest-held job, and shift work exposure in current job.

Twenty-one percent of participants reported exposure to any type of shift work in their jobs. The researchers found exposure to night shift work (both current and longest-held job) was associated with overall cognitive impairment (odds ratios, 1.79 and 1.53, respectively) compared with daytime work only. Specifically, night shift work (longest-held job) was associated with memory function impairment. Participants exposed to rotating shift work (both current and longest-held job) showed impairment on executive function measures versus daytime workers.

"These findings highlight the negative impact of [shift work] on cognitive function in middle-aged and older adults," the authors write. "By taking this modifiable risk factor into account we may enable workers to reduce cognitive impairment both during their working lives and after retirement, and support 'active aging' of the workforce."

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