Workplace stress levels linked to onset of diabetes

By Sheryl Kay • Published: August 8th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease, happening later in life and linked to unhealthy habits like a sedentary lifestyle. As most patients are not diagnosed until after age 40, researchers have looked for links that are related to later stages of life, including career choices and workplace conditions, too.

In one such recent study published in the Journal of Occupational Heath Psychology, researchers recruited almost 6,000 participants who agreed to an initial physical exam and were also surveyed regarding workplace conditions. At the completion of the initial assessment, it was determined that none of the adults had diabetes.

For the next three-and-a-half years the participants’ health records and workplace social interactions were monitored. Upon completion of the study, the researchers found that almost 200 of the adults had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Then researchers compared those who had been diagnosed to those that were diabetes-free, looking especially at workplace conditions such as measures of social support, perceived workload, and perceived control over work goals. Analysis showed that a strong social circle in the office actually helped to reduce the incidence of the disease. Individuals who felt supported were significantly less at risk for diabetes than their unsupported peers. Even after taking certain risk factors into account, like age, family history, and body mass index, the researchers still found that participants who reported having a high level of social support at work had a 22 percent lesser chance of developing the illness. Those who described themselves as overworked or underworked were 18 percent more likely to develop the disease, too.

Given the costly nature of diabetes to both employee and employer, the researchers concluded it would be a win-win to reduce stress in the office.