Women who are overworked are at a greater risk of developing diabetes, according to a new study. The study, by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, followed 7,300 Ontario workers aged 35 to 74 who were initially free of diabetes. It found women who worked more than 45 hours per week faced a 63 per cent greater risk of developing diabetes than women who worked 35 to 45 hours per week.
The incidence of diabetes tended to go down among men who worked longer hours, though the effects were not statistically significant.
“The study highlights the importance of conducting sex/gender analyses in research on work and health,” said Mahée Gilbert-Ouimet, a post-doctoral fellow at IWH and lead author of the study. “Previous studies on the link between working long hours and diabetes have found mixed results, and one reason for that might have been the fact that most of these studies looked at male-only or female-only samples.”
The researchers took into account a broad range of potentially confounding factors, including marital status, family status, other chronic health conditions, activity restrictions at work, physical demands at work, primary posture at work and health behaviours such as smoking, drinking and exercise.
Women’s responsibilities outside of work, such as taking care of the home and children might play a role in the link between long work hours and increases risk of diabetes, said Gilbert-Ouimet. Differences in the types of work that men and women do may be another factor to consider, she adds.
“Research elsewhere has shown a link between overwork and diabetes among people of lower socioeconomic status, so we might be looking at a similar effect among women,” she said. “It could also be that men who work long hours are more likely to be highly skilled, whereas women who work long hours are more likely to work in low-status occupations. As well, it could also be the case that men who work long hours are more likely to have partners who work fewer hours, so the stress levels they experience at home may be different.”