Occupation may be a major factor in vitamin D deficiency, researchers say
Vitamin D levels in most occupational groups are well below those considered optimal for health, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.
Shift workers, healthcare workers and indoor workers in particular are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada suggest.
Understanding the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in different professions could improve public health interventions and prevention efforts.
“Our results suggest that occupation is a major factor that may contribute to suboptimal vitamin D levels,” corresponding author Dr Sebastian Straube explains.
“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.”
The researchers found that prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was highest among shift workers (80 per cent of individuals), followed by indoor workers (77 per cent) and healthcare students (72 per cent).
Among healthcare workers, rates of vitamin D deficiency varied depending on whether they were students, medical residents (65 per cent), practicing physicians (46 per cent), nurses (43 per cent) or other healthcare professionals (43 per cent).
“Vitamin D production by the body is reliant on sunshine and UV exposure so any activity that reduces exposure tends to reduce vitamin D levels,” Straube notes.
“Sunlight deprivation in young medical professionals, who may have particularly long working hours, and other indoor workers, puts them at higher risk of both vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency.”
A high percentage of indoor workers (91 per cent) were also found to have insufficient vitamin D, which means that their levels of vitamin D weren’t necessarily as low as those found in vitamin D deficient individuals, but lower than levels recommended for health.
By comparison, 48 per cent of outdoor workers had vitamin D deficiency, while 75 per cent had vitamin D insufficiency.
In order to evaluate vitamin D levels, deficiency and insufficiency in different occupations and to identify at-risk groups of workers, the authors conducted a systematic review of 71 peer-reviewed journal articles which involved 53,425 individuals in total and spanned a range of latitudes in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
The review may be limited by lack of agreement on the definition of vitamin D deficiency, different methodologies for assessing vitamin D levels across the included studies, and studies taking place at different latitudes, although vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency did not seem to be dependent on study location.