Tiring Jobs Demand More Than Just Energy — Study Says Mental Stress at Work Increases Diabetes Risk

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We all know work can be stressful and stress can be bad for you. But even if you wouldn’t categorize your job as stressful per se, it may still be increasing your blood sugar levels and your diabetes risk—particularly if you’re a woman.

A group of researchers at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health at Inserm studied the effects of mentally tiring work on type 2 diabetes risk in more than 70,000 women over the course of 22 years. About 75 percent of these women worked in a teaching profession, and at the beginning of the study, 24 percent reported that their work was very mentally tiring. Those who reported working in mentally taxing jobs were 21 percent more likely to develop diabetes over the course of the study.

Researchers factored for age, physical activity level, dietary habits, smoking status, blood pressure, family history of diabetes, and BMI to help ensure accurate results. The data is published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

“Although we cannot directly determine what increased diabetes risk in these women, our results indicate it is not due to typical type 2 diabetes risk factors,” says Dr. Guy Fagherazzi, who led the study. “This finding underscores the importance of considering mental tiredness as a risk factor for diabetes among women.”

Type 1 diabetes prevalence, as well as workplace demands and stressors, is on the rise in recent years. The disease places huge burdens on society and the health care system, and it’s also difficult for individual patients to cope with, potentially leading to heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy, and other health complications.

The study suggests that women and the companies that employ them should be aware of the potential health risks of a mentally draining job, be on the lookout for stressful situations, and find ways to reduce mental exhaustion in the workplace as often as possible.

“Both mentally tiring work and type 2 diabetes are increasingly prevalent phenomena,” continues Dr. Fagherazzi. “What we do know is that support in the workplace has a stronger impact on work-related stress in women than men. Therefore, greater support for women in stressful work environments could help to prevent chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

The team’s next step will be to study the ways mentally tiring work affects people who already suffer from diabetes. The researchers want to know how these demanding jobs impact day-to-day diabetes management, quality of life, and the risk of diabetes-related health complications. They hope their work will help identify new avenues for improving the lives of people with diabetes.

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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?
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