Study: Female Shift Workers Retire Early Due to Illness, Disability

Jan. 15, 2008
According to new research, women working in shifts may be more likely than men to be forced into early retirement due to disability or poor health.

These findings were based on research from the Danish Work Environment Cohort Study, a large health and work study that examined approximately 8,000 male and female employees since 1990, as well as data from the national welfare register. The results will be published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Of the approximately 4,000 women included in the study, 253 were forced to retire early because of ill health and had been granted a disability pension by the study’s conclusion in June 2006. Of the 4,025 men, 173 were granted a disability pension by the end of the study.

After taking into consideration factors likely to influence the results, such as smoking, workplace environment and socioeconomic status, women were still more likely than men to require disability pensions.

Women also were 34 percent more likely to require disability pension if they had been shift workers. Male shift workers, on the other hand, were no more likely to retire early than other employees.

The study did not examine the reasons for forced early retirement, but shift work has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, peptic ulcer, sleep disturbance, pregnancy complications and accidents.

Despite the findings, the study’s authors said it still wasn’t clear why women were more vulnerable.

“More powerful studies are needed to establish the possible association,” the report read.

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