Working Women Increase Risk of Developing Diabetes

by Mark Benson on December 9, 2011

Risks for development of diabetes in women

According to a recent study, women that work on an irregular rotating schedule where there are three or more night shifts per month aside from the day and evening work hours have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to others women that work in normal shifts of either day or evenings.

This conclusion was reached after a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. Another finding includes the increased risk of weight gain when working on rotating night shift work for extended number of years. This also is a contributory factor in the eventual development of Type 2 diabetes.

There have been previous studies on finding the correlation between working in shifts and the increased incidence of cancer and cardiovascular health issues. This study conducted by HSPH is the largest ever so far to find the relationship between working in shifts and the increased incidence of Type 2 diabetes. This is also the first study that focused mainly on women workers.

The study was published on the online access journal PloS Medicine last Dec. 6, 2011.

According to research fellow An Pan of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition, “Long term rotating night shift work is an important risk factor for the development of Type 2 diabetes and this risk increases with the numbers of years working rotating shifts.”

The research head was Pan who with senior author Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology conducted a comparative analysis of data obtained from 69,269 women in the United States. The women were between the ages of 25 and 42 and were tracked from 1989 to 2007. The women worked as nurses and 60% of the nurses worked at least one year of rotating night shift work at the baseline. It also had 11% with more than ten years of rotating night shift work at baseline while 4% working more than ten years of rotating night shift at baseline. These proportions increased during the follow-ups to the study conducted.

The study found that the lengthier time women worked on rotating night shifts had the greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Broken down, women who worked rotating night shifts between three and nine years had a 20% risk while women who worked rotating night shifts between ten and nineteen years has a 40% risk. For women who worked more than twenty years had a 58% increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, women working on rotating night shifts had an observable weight gain and were more likely to become obese during the follow-up to the study.

According to Hu, “This study raises the awareness of increased obesity and diabetes risk among night shift workers and underscores the importance of improving diet and lifestyle for primary prevention of Type 2 diabetes in this high risk group.”


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

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

sixrealms April 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

I can relate to this. Following a productive life which included raising 2 children, obtaining a brown belt in karate, earning bachelor and master degrees, passing CMA and CPA exams, and working for major corporations, I started my own business at the age of 45. No longer having to commute for 3 hours a day, I expected to have more time to exercise and an easier time at staying in shape. Over time, the opposite happened. An important service I provided was to be sure a client's computer system was ready to go the next morning ~ this meant I worked through many nights. It was easy for me as intense focus was needed for problem resolution and this kept me awake. At the same time, I was not able to keep from putting on the pounds and subsequently became type II. I learned that we cannot have it all and it may be necessary to curb our professional ambitions.

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