Workplace bullying could trigger rise in diabetes risk

By Greg Hamilton • Published: January 3rd, 2018
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Researchers have identified various factors in the rising levels of Type 2 diabetes such as poor diet, sedentary lifestyles and genetic disposition. Now, a large study in Scandinavia has found two more possible causes: bullying and workplace violence.

Other studies have shown links between job insecurity, long working hours and a higher risk of diabetes. The team at the University of Copenhagen wanted to explore job-related violence, so they questioned more than 45,000 men and women ages 40-65 who did not have diabetes. They assessed the levels of exposure to bullying from colleagues and whether the participants had been a target of violence or threats.

Those who reported being bullied had a 46 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, while exposure to violence was linked to a 26 percent rise. The researchers obtained new diabetes diagnoses through national medical records.

Occupations made a difference, with the highest levels of violence or threats found among jobs with frequent client contact such as social workers, health care professionals and teachers.

The researchers said depression and anxiety from bullying or violence could trigger chronic activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Overweight employees also may be more frequent targets of bullying or violence, which could lead to comfort eating behaviors that result in weight gain or an increase in waist circumference, both of which are pivotal risk factors for diabetes.

A hostile workplace can be dangerous on many levels, and the researchers urged employers to consider stronger bullying and violence policies to prevent not only physical harm but also to curb health risks such as diabetes.