A recent study has revealed that working 45 hours or more per week leads to a higher risk of diabetes among women. The effect, however, was not found in women who work 30 to 40 hours per week, suggesting that this amount of work may curb the risk of the disease.
Experts have estimated that 439 million adults will be living with diabetes by the year 2030 worldwide. This estimate represents a 50-percent increase from 2010. Diabetes placed a burden on the global economy of US $1.31 trillion in the year 2015 alone.
While previous studies have found an association between longer work weeks and a heightened risk of diabetes, most of these studies were focused on men.
For the current investigation, the researchers tracked the health of over 7,000 Canadian workers between the ages of 35 and 74 over a period of 12 years using medical records and national health survey data.
Weekly hours logged at work among the participants were classified into four groups, including 15-34 hours, 35-40 hours, 41-44 hours, and 45 or more hours. The researchers also accounted for a range of factors that may influence the health outcomes of the individuals such as age, marital status, ethnicity, long-term health conditions, weight, and lifestyle.
Various factors in the workplace such as the nature of the job – primarily active or sedentary – were also accounted for in the analysis.
Over the course of the study period, one in 10 participants developed type 2 diabetes, and the diagnosis was found to be most common among men, obese individuals, and older age groups.
However, a longer work week was not linked to a heightened risk of diabetes among men. In fact, the incidence of diabetes tended to fall when a man’s work week was extended.
Among women, on the other hand, those who worked 45 or more hours a week had a 63-percent higher risk of diabetes compared to those who worked between 35 and 40 hours.
The underlying cause of this observation has not been determined. There is also no explanation for the gender differences identified in the study, but the researchers suggest that women may have more household chores and family responsibilities that are not accounted for in the analysis.
Furthermore, working long hours can trigger a chronic stress response in the body which increases the risk of insulin resistance, according to the experts.
“Considering the rapid and substantial increase of diabetes prevalence in Canada and worldwide, identifying modifiable risk factors such as long work hours is of major importance to improve prevention and orient policy making, as it could prevent numerous cases of diabetes and diabetes related chronic diseases,” wrote the study authors.
The research is published in the journal BMJ Diabetes Research & Care.