MONDAY, Oct. 10, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Shift work or working odd hours can cause changes in stress hormone levels, especially when people start these schedules as young adults, according to a new Dutch study.
Researchers said that increased levels of cortisol, a hormone whose levels rise when people are stressed, could be key to the development of serious health issues, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
"Our findings show that cortisol might play an important part in the development of obesity and increased cardiovascular risk for those working in shifts," lead author Dr. Laura Manenschijn, at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, said in an Endocrine Society news release. "Unraveling the role of cortisol in the health problems found in shift workers could result in new approaches to prevent cardiovascular damage in this specific group."
In conducting the study, researchers took hair samples from 33 shift workers and 89 daytime workers to measure their cortisol levels.
Researchers found that long-term cortisol levels were significantly higher among shift workers, particularly those younger than 40.
The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on shift workers' health.