Stressful work environment may put women at risk of diabetes, study suggests

by Sarita Sheth on August 24, 2012

Diabetes may be caused by stress resulting from low job control

Women who suffer stress at work are twice as likely to develop diabetes compared to women with high job control according to a new nine year study by researchers in Canada.

The study carried out at the Institute for Work and Health and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) says that job control can be defined as an individual’s ability to use their skills and the authority to make decisions over the way they work.

‘Increasing levels of job control for women at work, such as providing autonomy over the way they do their jobs, along with improving health behaviours, should be considered as part of a comprehensive diabetes prevention strategy,’ said Peter Smith, lead author on the study and researcher with the Institute for Work and Health.

While there has been a large amount of work examining the relationship between the psychosocial work environment and hypertension and heart disease, to date there have been relatively few studies examining the relationship between psychosocial work conditions and diabetes.

The scientists looked at how stress at work affected the neuroendocrine and immune system and how it affected increased or prolonged cortisol and sympathetic hormone release. They also looked at changes in health behaviour patterns, particularly those related to diet and energy expenditure, possibly as coping mechanisms.

‘Given the increasing prevalence of diabetes in Canada it is important to identify modifiable factors the might increase or decrease the risk of this disease in women. While our study shows that high body mass index is probably the most important risk factor, low job control among women also played an important role in diabetes risk,’ explained Rick Glazier, co-author and senior ICES Scientist.

The study, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, followed 7,443 actively employed women in Ontario with no previous diagnoses for diabetes for a nine year period.

The proportion of cases of diabetes in women that could be attributed to low job control was 19%, higher than that for other health behaviours such as smoking, drinking, physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption, but lower than for obesity.

Diabetes is a growing public health concern. In Ontario, Canada, the prevalence of diabetes in 2005 had already surpassed the predicted global rate for the year 2030, almost doubling between 1995 and 2005.

The Institute for Work and Health is an independent, not for profit organisation which aims to conduct and share research that protects and improves the health of working people and is valued by policy makers, workers and workplaces, clinicians, and health and safety professionals.

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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