Shift work, occupation and coronary heart disease over 6 years of follow-up in the Helsinki Heart Study

Scand J Work Environ Health. 1997 Aug;23(4):257-65. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.218.


Objectives: The risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in shift work and the possible pathways for CHD in industrial workers were studied along with the importance of shift work as an occupational class gradient of CHD risk.

Methods: Data from a psychosocial questionnaire and on life-style factors, blood pressure, and serum lipid levels were used for a follow-up study of a cohort of 1806 workers. CHD was determined from official Finnish registers. Cox's proportional hazards models were used with different covariates to evaluate the relative risks associated with shift work.

Results: All the blue-collar workers smoked more and a had higher systolic blood pressure than the white-collar workers. Three-shift workers scored low for job-decision latitude on the Karasek job stress scales. There were no differences in the total cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. When all the shift workers were compared with all the day workers, the relative risk of CHD was 1.5 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.1-2.1] when only age was adjusted for and 1.4 (95% CI 1.0-1.9) when life-style factors, blood pressure, and serum lipids were also adjusted for. The blue-collar day workers and 2-shift and 3-shift workers had relative risks of 1.3 (95% CI 0.8-2.0), 1.9 (95% CI 1.1-3.4), and 1.7 (95% CI 1.1-2.7), respectively, when compared with the white-collar day workers.

Conclusions: Shift work is an important part of the occupational gradient in CHD risk among industrial workers; some evidence was found for the hypothesis that a direct stress-related mechanism explains part of the increased CHD risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology*
  • Finland
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / physiopathology
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Work Schedule Tolerance


  • Lipids