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Working Overtime Could Raise Women's Diabetes Risk

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Working overtime may get you a few extra bucks, but it is likely detrimental to your health.

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Recent research suggests that women who work 45+ hours a week have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who work 35 to 40 hours a week.

It’s unclear why this connection only exists for women, or why working longer hours is associated with a higher risk of diabetes. However, a possible reason is that women, typically more than men, continue to “work” when they get home -- cooking dinner, taking care of the kids, doing laundry, etc. This exceedingly long workday may cause a stress response, which in turn leads to hormone imbalances and insulin resistance. This could catalyze the development of type 2 diabetes.

According to Peter Smith, the study’s lead investigator and a senior scientist at the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto, "It's important to understand that the work environment does play an increased role in the risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Working long hours is not a healthy thing to do….If you look at time spent outside of work, women do more care of household members and more routine housework. The only thing women don't do more of is watching TV and exercising."

The study followed 7,000 working adults (aged 35-74 years) from Ontario, Canada for 12 years. During that time period, 1/10 adults developed diabetes. Factors such as age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, residence, parenthood, lifestyle, smoking, weight, and any chronic health conditions were accounted for. Factors relating to work, such as shift work, number of weeks worked per year, and whether a job was active or sedentary were also accounted for.

Although no statistically significant link was found between number of work hours and type 2 diabetes in men, in women, working 45+ hours was correlated with "at least a 50 percent increased risk of developing diabetes," according to Smith. As stated above, this result is likely due to the lack of leisure time that women experience. However, the study did not prove a cause and effect relationship.

More and more people are becoming at-risk for type 2 diabetes. By 2030, it is hypothesized that worldwide, 439 million people will live with the disease, a 50 percent increase from 2010. Perhaps even more alarming is that diabetes is the precursor to many other chronic diseases, such as stroke and heart disease.

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