You already know that stress levels could play a part in diabetes prevention and, for those who already have diabetes, the management of the disease. But did you know that normal workplace stress and stress over losing your job may affect you differently?
We all have workplace stress at times. And while this could increase your risk of weight gain and—potentially—diabetes (please note that weight gain is far from the only factor in play here), this type of stress has got nothing on the type of stress that comes with wondering whether or not you’re going to lose your job.
For those who are concerned about layoffs or employment termination, job insecurity is a real and scary stressor that might be causing real physical damage to their bodies.
A 2016 study of almost 141,000 people found that those who lacked job security had 19% higher rates of type 2 diabetes than the group with job security, even though both groups were made up of working individuals with normal workplace stress to deal with. Although both groups likely experienced about the same amount of stress in terms of job difficulty, those who were stressed out specifically because of job insecurity were 19% more likely to have diabetes.
Although the study only shows a correlation (rather than a cause-and-effect relationship) between job insecurity and diabetes, lead author Jane Ferrie says that these findings are consistent with other studies showing an increased risk of weight gain (again, just one of many factors in the development of type 2 diabetes) among those concerned about losing their jobs. Even for those who already have diabetes, the stress of job insecurity may have an effect on their ability to properly manage glucose levels.
This information is important for doctors to know when recommending prevention and treatment plans for their patients. Even if you’re generally not one to share much personal information with your health care provider, stress related to job loss may be something to consider mentioning.
But we’re not saying any of this to cause you more stress. If you’re worried about losing your job, whether or not you have diabetes, we’ve got a few tips that we hope will help with your stress levels.
First, we encourage you to tell your employer if you do have diabetes or pre-diabetes. It’s illegal to discriminate against a person with diabetes in the workplace, so the law (and probably your employer too!) is on your side when it comes to your rights and any special considerations or allowances you’ll need for your condition.
Also remember that people with diabetes are capable of doing most of the jobs anyone else can. Although you can’t be an astronaut or a commercial pilot if you have diabetes, most careers that used to ban people with diabetes and other health conditions no longer do. You can do just about anything your heart desires, despite your disease. So don’t be afraid to tell your future employer if you have diabetes.
We know getting and keeping a job can be a struggle, particularly for those with diabetes. But regardless, we encourage you to be honest with your (future) employer and fight for the rights you deserve.
If you don’t have diabetes but are worried that your workplace stress might increase your chances of getting it, remember to do your best but also not to worry too much about what is outside your control. Do your best as an employee, do what you can to prepare for the job loss if a layoff or termination seems inevitable, and when you know you’ve done all you can, let go of the rest.
Also make sure you’re taking care of yourself in your spare time—think warm baths, exercise, a healthy diet, laughter, and whatever else helps you reduce stress. If you see your potential to develop diabetes (or for your diabetes to worsen) as just another reason to stress when you’re already stressed, remember that the best thing you can do to help keep it from happening is to take care of your body and mind and to worry less.
In all aspects of life, do what you have in your power to do and forget about the rest. Remember that you’re a strong, capable person who will definitely get through whatever battles life sends your way. We believe in you!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?