Teenagers whose jobs involve shift work may be increasing their risk for multiple sclerosis.
Teenagers whose jobs involve shift work may be increasing their risk for multiple sclerosis (MS). Part-time work in fast-food restaurants, drive-thrus, and retail stores has become a rite of passage for teens eager to earn a little extra pocket money.
It turns out that pocket money may come at a cost to their health. Researchers in Sweden have found an association between shift work and an increased risk for MS in those under 20.
Two population studies compared the occurrence of MS in people who had worked shift work at different ages to those who had not. All subjects were between 16 and 70 years old. Shift work was considered to be permanent or alternating work hours that occurred between 9 pm and 7 am.
Twice the risk of MS
Those who worked shift work for three years or longer before age 20 had twice the risk of developing MS as those who hadn’t performed shift work.
Shift work causes disruptions to the circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. These factors are thought to interfere with melatonin secretion and increase the body’s inflammatory responses, thus leading to disease.
MS is an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system with an important environmental component to the disease. Sleep loss as a result of shift work is an important avenue for researchers to explore.
Previous studies have found that working at night or on rotating shifts increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and thyroid disorders.
Further research is needed to determine how sleep loss and disrupted circadian rhythms increase teenaged shift workers’ risk of MS.