How workaholic women can avoid diabetes: Go home, study suggests

The Dangers of Stress and How To Cope

Unlike women, men didn’t see a similar increased risk of developing diabetes when working long hours.

An estimated 30.3 million Americans have diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the country.

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And according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control, those who are overweight or obese, older than age 45 or genetically prone are at risk of developing prediabetes, a condition in which one’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

One in 3 American adults has prediabetes and have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

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New research published Monday in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care suggests another diabetes risk factor for women: overworking.

For the study, scientists examined data from 7,065 Canadians tracked over a span of 12 years.

They found that women who worked an average of 45 hours or more had a 63 percent higher risk of developing diabetes compared to those working 35-40 hours per week.

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When figures were adjusted for common risk factors such as smoking, exercise amount, body mass index and alcohol intake, researchers didn’t find a significant effect reduction.

Unlike women, workaholic men didn’t fare a similar increased risk.

"Even when men and women do similar work, women earn less. Of course, that would impact women's health. Think about the stress of working harder and getting less for it," study co-author Mahee Gilbert-Ouimet told CNN.

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Gilbert-Ouimet noted how women are more likely to have unpaid work outside of the office, such as household chores, compared to men, adding gender-specific stressors on women.

“It's important for us to study women. They are still underevaluated in most areas of health, and it's a real shame, because if we look closer, there are still big inequalities,” she said.

Previous research from Japan has found a link between diabetes risk and workers partaking in 45 hours of off-hours non-shift work.

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Other studies, CNN reported, have shown that women working long hours may also be at increased risk of developing heart problems.

Severe fatigue from overworking can also lead to hopelessness, a symptom of depression. While some workaholics don't see the harmful effects of overdoing things, "other workaholics are immobilized by stress, and suffer debilitating anxiety," clinical psychologist Barbara Killinger wrote for Psychology Today in 2013. "Unfortunately, all this cumulative stress can lead to strokes and heart attacks, or what the Japanese call 'karoshi,' death from overwork."

A projected 439 million people in the world (and 1.1 million in Georgia) will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2030, an 50 percent increase from 2010.

Gilbert-Ouimet and her team suggest promoting a regular workweek of 35-40 hours may be an effective strategy to prevent the condition among women, but future studies need to consider documenting how family responsibilities, health behaviors and work hours are intertwined with diabetes risk.

Some limitations, according to the researchers, include potential unaccounted changes in work hours over time and lack of distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in participant healthcare records.

Read the full study at drc.bmj.com.

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