Social Coworkers Can Help Reduce Risk Of Diabetes Development
May 9, 2013

Social Coworkers Can Help Reduce Risk Of Diabetes Development

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

A new study today from the Tel Aviv University's (TAU) Faculty of Management has found that social support and improved work conditions can reduce the risk of diabetes in employees. Additionally, this study holds that they can use work conditions to predict the development of diabetes in healthy employees.

Obesity, high blood pressure and stress are all known causes for Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it makes sense to look to the workplace, the place many people spend eight hours a day or more, for possible diabetes triggers.

Dr. Sharon Toker with TAU now believes that the workplace can be crucial when keeping Type 2 diabetes at bay. For instance, in high-stress offices with very little social interaction between employees, the risk of diabetes is significantly higher. Dr. Toker even found that those employees who appear to be healthy otherwise run a risk of developing diabetes just by working in that space.

The accompanying paper is available in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

Dr. Toker and her research team conducted their research for over three years, studying nearly 6,000 individuals who stopped by a health center in Tel Aviv for routine physicals. When these participants first stopped by the health center, they were reported as healthy and without any indication of impending diabetes.

These men and women were then asked to complete a questionnaire about their working environment, including questions about how much support they receive at work and the heft of their work load. Individuals who received little support under a great amount of strain were separated, and their health was followed by doctors for 41 months. In just over three years, 182 of those participants who reported stressful jobs had developed diabetes.

After analyzing the results, Dr. Toker found that social support in the workplace is the strongest barrier against diabetes. For example, those who reported high levels of support from their coworkers were 22 percent less likely to develop diabetes over the course of the study. The workload experienced by employees also played a role in this study, though to a lesser extent. Of the participants, those who reported feeling over (and even under) worked were 18 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes during the study.

Overall, Dr. Toker and her team found that the average person who developed diabetes in this study was only 48 years old, and if their findings are correct, this average person may not have ever contracted diabetes if it weren´t for the stress of the modern office.

"You don't want to see working populations have an increasing rate of diabetes. It's costly to both employees and employers, resulting in absenteeism and triggering expensive medical insurance,” explains Dr. Toker in a statement.

This is a very real concern for the doctor. As Technology keeps employees ever tethered to their office, thereby increasing performance expectations, employees are spending more time working even when they aren´t at the office. These elements and more can lead to built-up stress.

Interestingly, Dr. Toker also found that the inverse is also true; those who reported feeling underworked were also at risk for developing diabetes. Though an overloaded schedule can increase employee stress, not working enough can make the same employee feel undervalued and therefore also increase their diabetes risk.