People who have low levels of social support and high levels of stress in their workplace are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.
Researchers in Israel conducted a 3.5-year study of more than 5,800 healthy people who visited a Tel Aviv Health Centre for a routine health check. Each participant was questioned according to an “expanded job strain model,” which takes into account measures of social support, perceived workload, and perceived control over work pace and objectives.
Following the initial examination and interview, the health of all participants was followed for a period of 41 months, during which time 182 participants developed type 2 diabetes.
After comparing diabetes rates to reported work conditions, they research team found that social support was a powerful protective factor against the development of the disease, with individuals who reported having supportive colleagues some 22% less likely to develop diabetes over the course of the study than their unsupported peers.
Workload was also found to be a risk factor, with the risk for type 2 diabetes 18% higher for employees who felt either overworked or underworked, regardless of whether they were healthy or not.
The results were controlled for various other risk factors including age, family history, physical activity and body mass index.
Lead researcher Dr. Sharon Toker, of Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Management, said the interesting findings suggest that reducing people’s workload may not have the desired effect as people need to feel challenged to be satisfied in their jobs.
Instead, she said employers should focus on finding the right balance in terms of workload and take steps to ensure their staff receive the necessary social support.

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