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Working shifts may help to postpone onset of menopause

by Pragati Singh

It’s no secret that working irregular shifts may have a negative impact on one’s lifestyle and sleeping patterns. Shift employment has also been shown to be harmful to employees’ health. According to a new study, it may also postpone the beginning of natural menopause, potentially due to changes in circadian rhythms. The findings of the study have been published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Shift work has grown in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 20% of the economically active population in North America and Europe working irregular or alternate shifts. Despite the fact that shift work has become an economic necessity in order to meet the rising demand for products and services, it is not without health dangers.

Previous research has connected shift employment to an elevated risk of coronary events, with night shifts carrying the highest risk. Peptic ulcers, type 2 diabetes, and malignancies such as prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer are all connected health issues.

Although prior research has demonstrated that shift work has a variety of negative health impacts on working individuals, there has been little study on the effect of shift work on middle-aged and older people. For middle-aged and older women, the age of natural menopause is a source of worry because both early and late menopause may be substantial risk factors for eventual morbidity and death. Previously, environmental variables such as smoking, parity, and socioeconomic status were found to be highly linked with age variations.

Prior research has revealed a probable effect of circadian rhythm disturbance on ovulation and fertility. Shift work has been proposed as a factor that may influence menopause age. Furthermore, excessive exposure to artificial light during the dark hours has been shown to inhibit melatonin, which in turn disrupts ovarian function. So far, little research has been conducted on the association between shift work and age at natural menopause.

The purpose of this new study, which was based on secondary data analyses of approximately 3,700 premenopausal women, was to look into the relationship between shift work exposure and variances in age at natural menopause in adult Canadian employees. According to the findings of the study, there is a substantial link between rotating shifts and the delayed onset of menopause.

The researchers suggest that disrupted circadian rhythms may have a role, but further research is needed.

The findings of the study are reported in the paper “The connection between shift work exposure and variability in age at natural menopause among adult Canadian workers: findings from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA).”

This study suggests that circadian modulation may have an effect on age at natural menopause, with present rotating shift employment associated with a later age at menopause and current night shift work associated with an earlier age at menopause. More research is needed to determine whether these differences in menopausal age are directly related to the effect of circadian rhythm changes on underlying hypothalamic regulation or are the result of other sociodemographic factors such as chronic stress, economic insecurity, and substance use or abuse, “Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, explains.

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