woman working at laptop over blue background; women working overtime could increase diabetes

If you’re a woman who works more than 45 hours per week, a new study shows that your health could be at risk. The study, published in the medical journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, states that women who work more than 45 hours per week are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes when compared to women working fewer hours.

Study findings

The study analyzed 7,065 Canadian workers over a 12-year period. Researchers found that women working more than 45 hours per week had a 63 percent higher incident of diabetes than women working between 35 and 40 hours. The results factor in things like smoking, leisure time, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and body mass index.

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Gender imbalance

One of the most notable conclusions from the study was that this same increase was not observed in men. In other words, working overtime does not increase a man’s risk of developing diabetes the same way it increases a woman’s risk.

Cameron Mustard, PhD, an epidemiologist and senior scientist at the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto said, “The question is why this elevated risk was not present for men, who have a higher incidence for the disease in general. In fact, the study found that the incidence of diabetes in men tended to decrease as their number of work hours increased.”

One explanation for this gender imbalance could come down to domestic work. Dr. Mustard speculates that women are still responsible for the majority of domestic work in 2018 and have less time to devote to a healthy lifestyle and leisure activities.

Minisha Sood, MD and endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, was not associated with the study but argued that women working long hours may have higher stress levels, which can play a role in diabetes. “Women who work long hours still carry much of the household responsibilities outside of work,” Dr Sood said, “which may increase stress levels and decrease hours during which they may otherwise focus on healthy meal preparation, exercise, proper sleep, and stress reduction.”

More research is needed on the subject, and the researchers are not comfortable concluding that longer work hours will lead to diabetes. However, Dr. Mustard advises women working more than 45 hours per week to get regular checkups from a healthcare professional.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being overweight with excess weight around the midsection
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes or prediabetes
  • Being of a certain race, including African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian American
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Kayla Pearce
Kayla Pearce is a Content Developer at Diabetic Nation in Memphis, TN. She has backgrounds in professional and creative writing and over a decade of experience in research and editing. She is deeply interested in literature, poetry, cats, and dessert.