APR 11, 2022 4:57 AM PDT

How Work Shifts Outside of Normal Business Hours May Affect Menopause Onset

WRITTEN BY: Alexandria Bass

Previous studies have linked shift work, work outside of typical daytime hours, to health problems like cardiovascular disease and reproductive issues. A recent Canadian study published in Menopause found shift work may also influence when a woman starts menopause.

Data were pulled from nearly 4000 premenopausal Canadian women included in the Longitudinal Study on Aging database. Of these women surveyed, around 20% did shift work at some point in their lives. 

After a 3-year follow-up and adjusting for confounders, shift work was found to affect menopause onset. Interestingly, women who worked night shifts went through menopause earlier, at an average age of 53 years old. Women who had rotating shift work, or shifts at different times of the day and night, started menopause at a later average age, at 55 years old. This latter finding has not been previously reported, according to the study's researchers.

One of the study's authors, Durdana Khan, MPH, reported that these effects of shift work on menopause are clinically relevant because menopause timing can be associated with potential adverse health outcomes. 

Shift work is thought to affect menopause onset by interfering with circadian rhythms. According to Khan and colleagues, rotating shift work is hypothesized to be more disruptive to the circadian rhythm than regular night work since the irregular schedule of rotating shift work makes it more difficult for a worker to adapt. This may be, more specifically, related to how circadian disruption affects estrogen production.

Not considering shift work, higher estrogen levels in general, like those produced in women who are obese, are linked to delayed menopause. In women who smoke, who often undergo menopause at an earlier age, lower estrogen levels from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in cigarette smoke are thought to be the reason.

Sources: Medscape, Menopause

About the Author
BA in Psychology
Alexandria (Alex) is a freelance science writer with a passion for educating the public on health issues. Her other professional experience includes working as a speech-language pathologist in health care, a research assistant in a food science laboratory, and an English teaching assistant in Spain. In her spare time, Alex enjoys cycling, lap swimming, jogging, and reading.
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