Can overworking lead to diabetes for women? | IMPAC health and safety

19 September, 2018  |  News

A new study has revealed that working long hours has been linked with an increased risk of diabetes among women.


rawpixel 760027 unsplashThe study explored the connection between diabetes and overworking. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.


The Canadian study, published in The BMJ medical journal, involved 7,065 workers and was conducted over 12 years. It found that women working 45 hours or more a week had a 51% higher risk of developing diabetes during the study period compared to women working 35 to 40 hours a week.

The same effect was not found in the men studied. In fact, conversely, men working longer hours seemed to have a lower risk of developing diabetes compared to men working fewer hours.

Mahee Gilbert-Ouimet, the lead author, said the gender difference might be related to the type of work men reported.  

A third of the men in the study working long hours said they spent that time doing a combination of sitting, standing, and walking, compared to only 8% of the women who worked longer hours. The men’s higher level of physical activity may help to explain, in part, their lower risk of developing diabetes.

Another factor that could’ve resulted in women’s diabetes risk being higher is that they often work a second shift at home involving family and household responsibilities. 

The study elaborated that the long work hours might lead to diabetes through a chronic stress response mechanism involving an acceleration of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal activity boosting glucocorticoids and cortisol levels, and increasing the risk of endocrine abnormalities, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and obesity.

Over the 12-year period, 10% of the workers studied developed type 2 diabetes. It’s estimated that 439 million people will live with diabetes by 2030; a 50% increase from 2010.


What can be done? 

According to Physician’s Weekly’s coverage of the research, physicians have long recommended exercise, weight loss, and a healthy diet to control blood pressure and minimise other complications of the disease. Stress reduction is also advised because, whether it’s caused on the job or not, stress may also make diabetes worse by directly contributing to a spike in blood sugar or by leading to unhealthy lifestyle habits that can cause complications.

In terms of parting advice from the authors of the research, they state that “promoting the regular workweek of 35–40 hours might be an effective strategy for preventing diabetes among women.”

And the advice for the women who work more than 45 hours a week, especially those who may be overweight or not very physically active, is to get a check-up from a healthcare professional.