Occupational health research round-up: July 2018

Night work is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease
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Cardiovascular disease and night work

Night work is associated with an increase in carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) amongst men, providing researchers with a new method for assessing the well-established pathway between exposure to night work and the development of cardiovascular disease, according to this Brazilian study. An increase in CIMT can be an indication of subclinical carotid atherosclerosis, a chronic and progressive disease that causes substantial cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

Silva-Costa A, et al. “Time of exposure to night work and carotid atherosclerosis: a structural equation modelling approach using baseline data from ELSA-Brasil”. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, published online 2 April 2018

Physical activity at work increases early mortality risk

Men performing jobs requiring high levels of physical activity have an 18% increased risk of early mortality compared with those in jobs requiring low levels of physical activity, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 studies. The association persisted even after the researchers adjusted for factors including leisure time physical activity. No such association was observed among women workers.

Coenen P et al. “Do highly physically active workers die early? A systematic review with meta-analysis of data from 193,696 participants”. British Journal of Sports Medicine, published online 14 May 2018

Disrupted circadian rhythm and major depressive disorders

Disruptions to circadian rhythm are associated with an increased risk to mental health and wellbeing over a lifetime, according to this study using accelerometer data. The data was collected from 91,105 participants between 2013 and 2015, using a wrist-worn accelerometer which measured the extent to which circadian rhythmicity of rest-activity cycles was disrupted. A reduction in circadian rhythm was associated with an increased risk of developing any lifetime major depressive disorder, lifetime bipolar disorder, greater mood instability and loneliness. It was also linked to lower health satisfaction and slower reaction times.

Wyse CA et al. “Association of disrupted circadian rhythmicity with mood disorders, subjective wellbeing, and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study of 91,105 participants from the UK Biobank”. The Lancet Psychiatry, published online 15 May 2018

Gender discrimination at work affects women’s mental health

Feeling discriminated at work on the basis of your gender negatively affects women’s, but not men’s, self-reported mental health, according to this analysis of US social survey data. A perception of sexual harassment amongst women is also associated with poor physical health. Multiple forms of mistreatment at work, for example, racism, ageism and sexism, are associated with worse self-reported mental health by both men and women, the research suggests.

Harnois C E and Bastos, J L. “Discrimination, harassment and gendered health inequalities: do perceptions of workplace mistreatment contribute to the gender gap in self-reported health?”. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, published online 21 April 2018

Leisure time with colleagues is good for you

Spending leisure time with colleagues as friends is good for wellbeing and life satisfaction, according to this study of 136 university employees. The health effect of socialising with “befriended colleagues” is particularly strong in the case of employees who have relatively few friends at work, leading the authors to conclude that “leisure time spent with colleagues could be understood as a resource”.

Endrejat P C et al. “Let’s go for a drink after work! The relation between leisure time spent with colleagues and employees’ life satisfaction”. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, published online 13 April 2018

Radiographers and work-related illness

Radiographers have a higher incidence of work-related illness than all other occupations, according to this analysis of occupational health cases reported by doctors to a UK surveillance network, THOR, between 1989 and 2015. Skin conditions were the most frequently occurring type of illness followed by musculoskeletal disorders. The authors find that the number of cases of work-related illness increased over the studied period, but that this is likely to be due to the increase in the number of radiographers, “although there was no evidence that work-related illnesses within radiographers are declining.”

Hulls P M et al. “Work-related ill health in radiographers”. Occupational Medicine, published online 17 May 2018

Occupational carcinogens on the rise

The number of known occupational carcinogens has increased from 28 in 2004 to 47 in 2017, according to an analysis of data submitted to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The authors conclude that these figures are “conservative” and likely underestimate the number of carcinogenic agents present in workplaces. Exposure to the agents identified causes a wide range of cancers, with those affecting the lungs, other respiratory sites, and the skin, accounting for the largest proportion. The dominant routes of exposure are inhalation and dermal contact. The researchers add that most workplace exposures have not been evaluated for their cancer-causing potential due to “inadequate epidemiological evidence and a paucity of quantitative exposure data”.

Loomis D et al. “Identifying occupational carcinogens: an update from the IARC Monographs”. Occupational & Environmental Medicine published online 16 May 2018

Supervisor support for employees with chronic headaches

Higher quantitative and emotional demands at work contribute to greater levels of emotional exhaustion amongst employees with chronic headaches. However, the support of supervisors helps mitigate the impact of work on the mental health of those with chronic headaches, this Dutch research suggests.

Van der Doef M P and Schelvis R M C. “Relations between psychosocial job characteristics and work ability in employees with chronic headaches”. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation published online 10 April 2018 

Office workers suffer from uninterrupted sitting at work

Prolonged sitting at work increases discomfort, which is eased in the short-term by a bout of standing or pedalling a static “bike”, according to this study of middle-aged sedentary office workers. The workers were randomised into three condition-based groups: sitting uninterrupted for four hours, sitting for four hours but interrupted with 10 minutes of standing per hour, and sitting but interrupted with 10 minutes of pedalling per hour. Discomfort was lower in both the standing and pedalling groups compared with those who sat uninterrupted for four hours; short-lived improvements in alertness were also observed immediately following the standing/pedalling bursts of activity.

Benzo R M et al. “Acute effects of interrupting sitting on discomfort and alertness of office workers”. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published online 30 March 2018 

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