Can Work Boost Type 2 Diabetes Risk?
British Study Shows Condition Is More Common in Lower Employment Grades
Sept. 28, 2004 - An important part of your lifestyle may also increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. British researchers say career status may need to be added to the list of risk factors.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body can't produce enough insulin or use it properly. High job stress and low social support at work have been shown to be associated with increasing levels of blood sugars in nondiabetic people. But could this stress leads to an increased risk of diabetes especially in relationship to one's social position?
Researcher Meena Kumari, PhD, of the International Centre for Health and Society and University College London's epidemiology and public health department, and colleagues organized the study to analyze this issue.
They examined data on more than 10,000 British civil servants in London aged 35-55 from 1985-1999. All participants worked in white-collar jobs.
Besides tracking participants' health, the researchers also asked them about their jobs, social support, depression, and other psychosocial factors.
Kumari's team followed up with participants for more than 10 years on average. During that period, 4% of the government workers developed type 2 diabetes.
Risk Higher in Lower Ranks
Career level made a difference.
In short, the more senior the job, the less likely participants were to develop type 2 diabetes.
Men in lower-level jobs were almost three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when compared with higher-ranking professional men. Women in lower-level posts, such as clerical positions, were 70% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with female workers in more senior positions.
Men had an extra risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Male workers who felt they put a lot of effort into their jobs without an equal amount of reward had a 70% greater chance of developing diabetes. This was found to be independent of other factors typically associated with increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
"High efforts spent and low rewards received are hypothesized to result in emotional distress and adverse health effects," write the researchers in the Sept. 27 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine.
The impact of an effort-reward imbalance, which is also a risk factor for coronary heart disease, was not seen among women.
Cause or Effect?
Don't be too quick to completely blame the stress of a job for developing type 2 diabetes.
Not all workers in lower-level positions developed diabetes.
Being overweight or obese were also risk factors known to increase a person's risk of the disease. So were family history, ethnicity, and high blood pressure. Participants who exercised vigorously were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Lifestyle, weight, diet, and activity may help workers in any job limit their risk of type 2 diabetes, and a host of other health problems.