INTRODUCTION: Shift work is associated with lung disease and infections. We therefore investigated the impact of shift work on significant COVID-19 illness. METHODS: 501 000 UK Biobank participants were linked to secondary care SARS-CoV-2 PCR results from Public Health England. Healthcare worker occupational testing and those without an occupational history were excluded from analysis. RESULTS: Multivariate logistic regression (age, sex, ethnicity and deprivation index) revealed that irregular shift work (OR 2.42, 95% CI 1.92 to 3.05), permanent shift work (OR 2.5, 95% CI 1.95 to 3.19), day shift work (OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.55 to 2.6), irregular night shift work (OR 3.04, 95% CI 2.37 to 3.9) and permanent night shift work (OR 2.49, 95% CI 1.67 to 3.7) were all associated with positive COVID-19 tests compared with participants that did not perform shift work. This relationship persisted after adding sleep duration, chronotype, premorbid disease, body mass index, alcohol and smoking to the model. The effects of workplace were controlled for in three ways: (1) by adding in work factors (proximity to a colleague combined with estimated disease exposure) to the multivariate model or (2) comparing participants within each job sector (non-essential, essential and healthcare) and (3) comparing shift work and non-shift working colleagues. In all cases, shift work was significantly associated with COVID-19. In 2017, 120 307 UK Biobank participants had their occupational history reprofiled. Using this updated occupational data shift work remained associated with COVID-19 (OR 4.48 (95% CI 1.8 to 11.18). CONCLUSIONS: Shift work is associated with a higher likelihood of in-hospital COVID-19 positivity. This risk could potentially be mitigated via additional workplace precautions or vaccination.
COVID-19, infection control, occupational lung disease, respiratory infection, viral infection