While the development of type 2 diabetes is more commonly associated with risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity, research has shown that stress can also have a significant impact.
Dr Sharon Toker of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Management found that low levels of social support and high levels of stress in the workplace can accurately predict the development of diabetes over the long term — even in employees who appear to be healthy otherwise.
The study contributes to an ongoing body of research linking work conditions to physical and mental health.
The researchers’ study of employees established that work conditions had a preventative or predictive effect on the development of type 2 diabetes.
Participants who reported having a high level of social support at work had a 22 per cent lesser chance of developing diabetes. And those who described themselves as either over or under worked were 18 per cent more likely to develop the disease.
Researchers recruited 5,843 individuals for a routine physical examination. On these initial visits, all participants were healthy and had no indication of diabetes.
Toker and her fellow researchers surveyed the participants according to an “expanded job strain model,” which takes into account measures of social support, perceived workload, and perceived control over work pace and objectives.
After the initial interview and examination, the health of all participants was followed for a period of 41 months, over which time 182 participants developed diabetes, said Toker.
Social support emerged as a strong protective factor against the development of the disease, with supported individuals significantly less at risk for diabetes than their unsupported peers, researchers said.
Workload was also correlated with disease development, with employees who felt either overworked or under-worked being at increased risk. One of the most interesting findings of the study — that less workload is as harmful as heavy workload — shows that dramatically reducing the load of a busy employee may not have the desired effect.
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