Link Between Diabetes and Long Working Hours Among the Poor

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10th October 2014

A new analysis of past research suggests that people who have low-paying jobs could be more likely to develop diabetes. Researchers found that people working for a low income were found have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they work more than fifty-five hours a week than if they were to work less hours. However, working hours were not linked to diabetes among people with higher incomes. The study’s lead author, Mika Kivimaki, from the University College London, states that people that worked long hours had a 30 per cent increased chance of getting type 2 diabetes. He suggests that a probable reason for this may be that working such long hours puts activities such as healthy diet, sufficient sleep and physical activity, out of place.

In the US, around 1 in 10 citizens have diabetes, and about 30 per cent of diabetes cases are not diagnosed, in accordance with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of these instances relate to type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes. This type of diabetes develops when the cells in a person’s body are prone to resist the hormone insulin, however it can also occur if the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Studies carried out previously have shown that a higher risk of the development of diabetes is tied to long working hours. However, recent research now suggests that this link only applies to people with a low income.

The researchers put together data from studies that have previously been published, along with 19 that were unpublished, looking at long working hours (55 hours+ a week) and the link to diabetes. These studies involved following over 200,000 people for 7 years on average. These people came from several different countries, including Japan, America, Australia as well as several countries in Europe.
Around 29 participants in every 10,000 developed diabetes every year throughout the study.

On the whole, when they compared people who worked over 55 hours to those who worked the standard 35-40 hour week, the researchers found there were similar risks of diabetes in both groups. However, when they focused on the people working longer hours, they saw a difference based on wealth class. Among ever 10,000 of the lower paid workers, there were 13 additional cases of diabetes each year of the study. This was only apparent in those who worked longer hours, as opposed to those working normal hours. Among the wealthier participants of the study who worked longer hours, there was no increased risk of diabetes. Although this study cannot prove that long working hours leads to diabetes, Kivimaki suggests that it is good for health professionals to recognise that there is a link there.

Kivimaki’s research can be found in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.