Working in shifts for an extended period of time can prove to be detrimental for your cognitive skills, finds a new study.
The research from Uppsala University and Malmö University shows that compared to non-shift workers, shift workers needed more time to complete a test that is frequently used by physicians to screen for cognitive impairment. However, those who had quit shift work more than five years ago completed the test just as quick as the non-shift workers.
By utilising data from around 7,000 individuals participating in the Swedish cohort study EpiHealth, researchers sought to examine whether shift work history would be linked to performance.
The test that was used is called the “Trail Making Test”, which consists of two parts. Part A requires participants to connect circles labeled with numbers 1-25 in an ascending order. In part B, participants must alternate between numbers and letters in an ascending order. Time to complete these tests has been shown to increase with age.
Corresponding author Christian Benedict said that the results indicate that shift work is linked to poorer performance on a test that is frequently used to screen for cognitive impairment in humans
Benedict, however, added that the poorer performance was only observed in current shift workers and those who worked shifts during the past five years. In contrast, no difference was observed between non-shift workers and those who had quit shift work more than five years ago. The latter could suggest that it may take at least five years for previous shift workers to recover brain functions that are relevant to the performance on this test.
The findings are published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
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