Women who work rotating night shifts for more than 10 years have a 15% to 18% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), according to a study published in JAMA.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston studied the link between rotating night shift work – defined as 3 or more night shifts per month, in addition to day and evening shift work – and CHD during a 24-year period. A total of nearly 189,000 women who completed the Nurses’ Health Study I and II in 1988 and 1989 were included in the analysis.

Participants were asked to report on their overall coronary health; this included whether they had an angiogram to confirm CHD-related chest pain, a heart attack, or a number of cardiovascular procedures, including angioplasty, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, or stents. Self-reported heart attacks or death were confirmed by medical records and death certificates to establish that the event was linked to CHD.

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“There are a number of known risk factors for coronary heart disease,” said lead author Céline Vetter, PhD, associate epidemiologist in the Channing Division of Network Medicine and chronobiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “However, even after controlling for these risk factors, we still saw an increased risk of CHD associated with rotating shift work.”

“Our results are in line with other findings,” Dr Vetter continued, “yet it is possible that different schedules might carry a different risk. Even though the absolute risk is small, and the contribution of shift work to CHD is modest, it is important to note that this is a modifiable risk factor.”


  1. Vetter C, Devore EE, Wegrzyn LR, et al. Association between rotating night shift work and risk of coronary heart disease among women. JAMA. 2016;315(16):1726-1735; doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.4454