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Friday Roundup: U.S. Nurses’ Health Studies Find Varied Work Schedules Increase Diabetes Risk

admin - December 16, 2011

night shift and diabetesCould nurses be at risk for diabetes!? Nurses who work a varied work schedule could be. A article reports on a recent study, which suggests that the longer nurses worked a rotating schedule, the greater their risk of diabetes.

The study is in accordance, too, with other research that found a connection between night shift or varied work schedules and either risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome, or the disease itself.

The Study: Nurses on Rotating Schedules

For the purpose of the nurses study, published in December’s PlosS Medicine, rotating shift work was outlined as working three or more nights a month, plus days and evenings. The study’s data came from two groups of female nurse participants of the U.S. Nurses’ Health Studies I and II.

More than 69,000 female nurses between the ages of 42 and 67 were involved in Group A, and nearly 108,000 female nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 were part of Group B.

When the women enrolled in the studies, they showed no sign of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. During the 18- to 20-year study period, however, 6,165 women from Group A and almost 4,000 women from Group B developed type 2 diabetes.

The nurses research study, also found that compared to female nurses who did not do shift work, those who did had an increased diabetes risk that expanded depending on how many years they worked that schedule. The following list shows that if they worked a varied shift:

  • At least 1-2 years, they had a 5% increase risk
  • At least 3-9 years, they had a 20% increased risk
  • At least 10-19 years, they had a 40% increased risk
  • More than 20 years, they had a 58% increased risk

Obviously with these findings, the connection between working a rotating schedule and diabetes risk certainly seems valid. However, the study’s lead author, Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, stated that other factors, including biological and behavioral, must also be acknowledged.

For example, Hu mentioned that rotating shift work disturbs the body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock) as well as disrupts the body’s ability to balance its need for energy. This can cause higher glucose and insulin resistance that are characteristic of type 2 diabetes.

In addition, working rotating shifts affects eating and sleeping behaviors as well as increases the tendency to smoke.

Another doctor mentioned in the article, Dr. Joel Zonszein, Director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, added that the hard and stressful work could also be factors.

So although the findings of the study do not, without argument, point to shift work as the sole cause for diabetes among these nurses, the consistent link between a varying shift and diabetes is apparent: “Shift work is an important risk factor for obesity and type 2 diabetes,” the article quotes Hu. “This study increases the awareness of diabetes risk among people who work on a rotating shift, and the importance of diabetes screening, detection and prevention in this high risk group.”

You can read the study in full detail at:

You can find more diabetes articles courtesy of Life Line Screening at:

Image courtesy of Suat Eman /


1 Comment so far
  1. Melvina - January 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    A simple and intelgilnet point, well made. Thanks!

One Response to “Friday Roundup: U.S. Nurses’ Health Studies Find Varied Work Schedules Increase Diabetes Risk”

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