Boring job with long hours? You have a 30% higher risk of diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on September 30, 2014

People working more than 55 hours per week doing a manual or low socio-economic status job have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who work a shorter week, new research has found.

Researchers at University College London, led by Professor Mika Kivimaki, analysed data from Europe, the United States, Japan and Australia and took into consideration factors such as smoking, physical activity, age, sex and obesity.


Those who worked long hours in higher status jobs did not show increased diabetes risk

The study involved published and unpublished data from over 200,000 men and women and found no increase in diabetes risk for those who worked longer hours in higher status jobs.

But people working over 55 hours in jobs of lower socio-economic status were at a 30% increased risk of type 2 diabetes compared to their co-workers who worked a standard 35 to 40 hour week.

Even excluding the impact of shift work, which has been shown to increase the risk of obesity and diabetes, did not alter the result.

‘The pooling of all available studies on this topic allowed us to investigate the association between working hours and diabetes risk with greater precision than has been previously possible,’ said Kivimaki.

‘Although working long hours is unlikely to increase diabetes risk in everyone, health professionals should be aware that it is associated with a significantly increased risk in people doing low socio-economic status jobs,’ he added.

‘The findings of this study support a link between working more than 55 hours a week and an increased risk of developing type two diabetes, but only in those people deemed to be in low socio-economic groups. The study’s authors confirm more research into this finding is needed,’ said Maureen Talbot, a senior cardiac nurse with the British Heart Foundation which contributed to the funding of the study.

‘Having diabetes increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, so reducing that risk is essential. If you are worried you may be at an increased risk, have a chat with your GP,’ she added.

The findings are reported in the medical journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology and in an accompanying comment article, Dr. Orfeu Buxton, from Pennsylvania State University and Dr. Cassandra Okechukwu from Harvard School of Public Health, describe the results as ‘robust’.

‘Even after controlling for obesity and physical activity, which are often the focus of diabetes risk prevention, this suggests that work factors affecting health behaviours and stress may need to be addressed as part of diabetes prevention,’ they wrote.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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