An Investigation Into Atherosclerotic Indicators Among Current Shift and Non-Shift Working Female Hospital Employees: An Exploratory Study
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Shift work has been suggested to be associated with early adverse atherosclerotic changes. Endothelial function, intima-media thickness (IMT), and arterial stiffness are preclinical predictors of atherosclerotic changes, which may suggest a specific pathway through which shift work exposure contributes to cardiovascular disease (CVD). The aims of this exploratory study were: 1) to describe and compare early atherosclerotic indicators between current shift workers [SW] with at least 6 years of shift working experience and current non-shift workers [NSW] with at least 6 years of work experience; 2) to describe the potential for a dose-response relationship between length of shift work exposure and early atherosclerotic indicators; and 3) to explore and compare the associations between psychological stress and vascular changes in SW and NSW. Female current shift (n = 20) and non-shift work employees (n = 19) visited a lab on one occasion to complete vascular function testing. These included reactive hyperemia flow mediated dilation, pulse wave velocity (PWV), and structural examination of intima-media thickness (IMT). Self-report validated measures of psychological job stress, life stress and other personal and demographic information were collected. Within this sample, there was no significant difference between groups regarding atherosclerotic indicators. The SW participants reported a higher effort-reward imbalance (p = 0.003) and greater physical job demands (p < 0.001). Skill discretion, decision authority, and decision latitude were negatively correlated with peripheral PWV (r = -0.623, p < 0.001; r = -0.338, p = 0.044; r = -0.346, p = 0.039, respectively). IMT was positively correlated with psychological job demands (r = 0.413, p = 0.029). There was no dose-response relationship between years of shift work experience and atherosclerotic indicators after controlling for age. Women working in a shift work position did not significantly differ in their atherosclerotic development when compared to non-shift working women. However, women employed in a shift work position did report greater psychological work stress and physical demands, which may play a role in CVD. Individuals exposed to shift work may be prompted to engage in healthy behaviours and employers may benefit from implementing practices to reduce workplace-related stress.