Workplace stress and diabetes linked in new study

Sept. 15, 2014—Feeling frazzled at work might do more than sour your mood. A high-stress job might also make you prone to diabetes, said a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

It found that people under high pressure at work were 45 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes—the most common form of the disease—than those without taxing jobs.

Multiple risk factors, such as extra pounds, contribute to type 2 diabetes risk, but researchers found that work-related stress significantly raised diabetes risk regardless of factors like weight, age and family history. That finding makes this study a little unusual, and it might prompt you to make some changes in the way you handle stresses that come from work.

About the study

Researchers tracked 5,337 employed men and women ages 29 to 66, none of whom had diabetes at the study’s start.

The researchers quizzed the adults about stress at work. For the purposes of the study, they defined a high-stress job as one that required employees to handle huge demands while having little control over their tasks.

Researchers also factored in the adults’ body mass index (BMI), age, sex and family history of diabetes.

After an average of 12.7 years of follow up, 291 people developed type 2 diabetes, and work-related job stress emerged as a major risk factor for a diabetes diagnosis. Researchers say that bump in risk worked independently of other classic risk factors, including obesity and advancing age.

Past research has uncovered a link between workplace stress and heart disease. But this is the first study to reveal a strong association between high-pressure jobs and type 2 diabetes, according to a press release announcing the study’s results.

Read more about the study here.

The take-home message
Some stress at work is inevitable—even dream jobs have it—and it can even be motivating. Still, since research now links high-stress jobs to diabetes as well as heart disease, it’s clearly in your best interest to keep workplace stress to a manageable level.

So if your job is a high-stress one, how can you feel less tense? Try these tips from the American Diabetes Association, the American Psychological Association and the Office on Women’s Health:

Make the most of breaks. Even 10 minutes of personal time can refresh you. Take a quick walk—exercise is a stress buster—or chat with a co-worker about something that has nothing to do with work.

Set reasonable standards. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Everybody falls short at times.

Learn how to relax. Stretching and relaxing your muscles can tame tension. So can breathing deeply for at least five minutes.

Establish boundaries. You might stop answering job-related email at home or answering work calls during dinner.

Perhaps most important, develop healthy responses to stress. Rather than overeating or reaching for a cigarette, for example, do your best to stick to smart habits. Take extra care to eat well, exercise regularly and get enough shut-eye.

Many types of stress can affect your health. Find out what they are here.


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