Fancy a nice relaxing sunbathe to break up the monotony of the working day? Well a recently published study from the University of Alberta, Canada is suggesting you should be allowed to do just that, as low levels of vitamin D pose a risk to the health of many workers.

The study consisted of the analysis of 71 past studies which covered 53,425 individuals spread across a wide range of locations throughout both hemispheres, and sought to identify in which industries workers were most at risk.

The researchers found that shift workers are the most likely to experience a vitamin D deficiency with 80% of such individuals needing to increase their intake substantially. Indoor workers are nearly as susceptible at 77%, while 72% of healthcare students live with a vitamin D deficiency.

Furthermore, these figures don’t take into account those that aren’t technically deficient, but are defined as having a vitamin D insufficiency. This means that while their levels are not low enough to class as a deficiency, they still pose a significant health risk. The report states that as much as 91% of indoor workers, such as those in offices, have insufficient levels of vitamin D.

Dr Sebastian Straube, the corresponding author, said of the somewhat alarming figures, “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.

“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. 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.”

In an effort to counteract this clearly present issue, the researchers are suggesting that employers should permit their staff to take short breaks throughout the day purely for the purpose of increasing exposure to sunlight and thereby raising vitamin D levels. The authors wrote, “For occupations predominantly based indoors, workers could be encouraged to take intermittent breaks outside to expose the skin to UV light in order to promote cutaneous vitamin D synthesis, and work schedules could be re- imagined to allow for such breaks.”

However, given the fact that deficiency and insufficiency rates for outdoor workers sit at 48 % and 75% respectively, a lack of sunlight may not be the only factor contributing to this issue. These professions generally experience no shortage of sunlight, and so employers may also be well-served by looking into other avenues such as promoting better diets and/or the provision of supplements.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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