Researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel suggest that job burnout could increase the risk of illness by a magnitude comparable to risk factors such as high body-mass index, smoking and lack of physical exercise.
The researchers, however, caution that the study does not definitively confirm a link between workplace stress and diabetes.
Samuel Melamed, an associate professor at Tel Aviv University and the article's main author, and his colleagues analyzed the experiences of 677 Israeli workers from 1998 to 2003. Nearly 77 percent of the workers were men, and their average age was about 43 years.
Of the 677 workers, 17 developed Type 2 diabetes during the study period.
The researchers found that people who experienced job burnout were 1.84 times more likely to become diabetic, even when factors such as age, sex and obesity were taken into account.
When researchers looked at a smaller sample of workers (507) and tried to statistically eliminate the possible effect of blood-pressure levels, they found that burned-out workers were then 4.32 times more likely to get Type 2 diabetes.
How People Cope with Stress is a Factor
According to Melamed, the ability of workers to cope with job stress also plays an important role in the possible link to Type 2 diabetes.
"It is possible that these people are prone to diabetes because they can't handle stress very well," Melamed said. "Their coping resources may have been depleted not only due to job stress but also life stresses, such as stressful life events and daily hassles."
Stress can disrupt the body's ability to process glucose, especially in people whose genetics make them vulnerable, said Richard Surwit, chief of the Division of Medical Psychology at Duke University Medical Center.
Surwit explained to Occupationalhazards.com that the study results should be replicated in a much larger group of subjects. He asserted that Melamed "needs to look at hundreds of thousands of people to see if he gets the same thing."