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October 2014

Job Stress May Raise Your Risk for Diabetes

You can’t catch type 2 diabetes like you can a cold. But certain things make you more likely to get the disease. These include having a family history of diabetes and being overweight. You may also want to add work stress to that list. It may seem like an unlikely culprit. But a recent study suggests otherwise.

Stressed man reading papers

Studying job stress

In the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers looked at the potential link between diabetes and work stress. They first collected health information from more than 5,000 adults ages 29 to 66. They asked study participants about their weight, smoking status, and physical activity levels. They then used a detailed questionnaire to assess each person’s level of work stress.

After an average of almost 13 years of follow-up, researchers found that adults who reported the highest levels of job stress were more likely to have developed type 2 diabetes. In fact, they had a 63% higher risk for the disease. Those most affected? High-stressed men who lived alone.

Working out the connection

Stress of any kind—not just that on the job—can drive many people to take up unhealthy habits. For instance, you may eat more foods high in fat and sugar. Such behavior can eventually lead to diabetes. That may be why people with higher job stress seem more likely to develop the disease.

There may be another connection, though. A substance called cortisol may play a part, too. This hormone helps regulate blood sugar in the body. Cortisol levels tend to spike when you feel stressed. That, in turn, may affect your blood sugar. Past research has linked chronically high cortisol levels to health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Work stress can also be harmful to people who already have diabetes. It can make it harder for them to manage the disease. Stress can quickly raise blood sugar levels. It can also lead them to choose unhealthy habits.

Minimizing Job Stress

Work-related stress is a reality for many people. If you feel overwhelmed on the job, try these stress-relieving strategies:

  • Stay organized. Keeping track of your projects and deadlines can help you better decide what needs to be finished first. Start with a daily to-do list. Try breaking a large project into small tasks.

  • Don’t procrastinate. Use a schedule planner. Simply seeing on paper that there is time to finish each task can help you get to work.

  • Don’t overcommit. If you take on too much, you’re creating stress. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  • Limit interruptions. Ask others to give you a block of time when you are not disturbed. Or schedule time for each task.

  • Make time for you. Leave your job at the office, even if your office is a room in your home. Don’t answer your cell phone or check email during times you’ve set aside for you and your family.

  • Talk with your manager about any problems. Try to clear up issues that may be causing you stress.


Are you stressed out? Find out with this stress assessment.


Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/30/2014
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