Office workers are ‘much more vulnerable’ to vitamin D deficiency

Shift workers, healthcare workers and office workers have dangerously low levels of vitamin D, according to a study published in the journal BMC Public Health.

The research, which was carried out by the University of Alberta in Canada, suggests that people who work indoors don’t expose themselves to sun light often enough.

To evaluate vitamin D levels, the study’s authors conducted a review of 71 peer-reviewed journal articles which involved 53,425 people in total across the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

They found that prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was highest among shift workers (80 per cent), followed by office workers (77 per cent) and healthcare students (72 per cent).

Nine out of ten office workers were also found to have insufficient levels of vitamin D (which is less serious than a deficiency) compared with 75 per cent of outdoor workers.

Dr. Sebastian Straube, the study’s co-author said: ‘Our results suggest that occupation is a major factor that may contribute to suboptimal vitamin D levels. Regular screening of vitamin D levels in at-risk groups should be considered for future clinical practice guidelines and public health initiatives.’

‘Workplace wellness programs could include education about the importance of adequate vitamin D levels. This could help prevent adverse health outcomes linked to vitamin D deficiency, such as metabolic disorders, psychiatric and cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.’

Instant analysis

Although the reporting of this study focuses on the higher chances of vitamin D deficiency in indoor workers compared with outdoor workers, what strikes me is that even in the outdoor workers the proportion with vitamin D deficiency was 48 per cent, so this is clearly a problem that affects everyone.

The study coordinates data from 71 peer-reviewed articles, and although this gives a lot of information, it has drawbacks too. Some of the studies did not include important information on potentially confounding factors such as age, body composition, lifestyle factors and the time of year that the measurements were taken, but nonetheless the study outcomes are in line with a lot of other recent evidence which suggests we need to consider placing more importance on vitamin D and supplementation.

Research score: 3/5

MB