Immunological effects of shift work in healthcare workers

Bette Loef, Nening M. Nanlohy, Ronald H.J. Jacobi, Chantal van de Ven, Rob Mariman, Allard J. van der Beek, Karin I. Proper*, Debbie van Baarle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The immune system potentially plays an important mechanistic role in the relation between shift work and adverse health effects. To better understand the immunological effects of shift work, we compared numbers and functionality of immune cells between night-shift and non-shift workers. Blood samples were collected from 254 night-shift and 57 non-shift workers employed in hospitals. Absolute numbers of monocytes, granulocytes, lymphocytes, and T cell subsets were assessed. As read out of immune function, monocyte cytokine production and proliferative capacity of CD4 and CD8 T cells in response to various stimuli were analysed. The mean number of monocytes was 1.15 (95%-CI = 1.05–1.26) times higher in night-shift than in non-shift workers. Furthermore, night-shift workers who worked night shifts in the past three days had a higher mean number of lymphocytes (B = 1.12 (95%-CI = 1.01–1.26)), T cells (B = 1.16 (95%-CI = 1.03–1.31)), and CD8 T cells (B = 1.23 (95%-CI = 1.05–1.45)) compared to non-shift workers. No differences in functional parameters of monocytes and lymphocytes were observed. The differences in numbers of monocytes and T cells suggest that chronic exposure to night-shift work as well as recent night-shift work may influence the immune status of healthcare workers. This knowledge could be relevant for preventive initiatives in night-shift workers, such as timing of vaccination.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18220
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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