A study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Work and Health, Toronto has shown that women who work 45 hours or more per week are at an increased risk of diabetes.
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The study showed no such increased risk for diabetes among women who worked 30 to 40 hours per week, leading the authors to suggest that limiting work hours to this amount might help reduce the disease risk.
Previous research has indicated an association between long working hours and increased diabetes risk. However, the majority of that research has been focused on men.
In the current study, national health survey data was used to monitor the health of 7,065 men and women (aged 35 to 74 years) over the course of 12 years (between 2003 and 2015).
The team divided the participants into those who worked 15 to 34 hours; 35 to 40 hours; 41 to 44 hours and 45 hours or more.
They adjusted for multiple factors including age, gender, lifestyle, weight, ethnicity, long-term health conditions and workplace factors such as whether the job was sedentary or active.
As reported in the journal BMJ Diabetes Research and Care, the team found that among women, those who worked 45 hours or more had a significantly greater risk of developing diabetes than those who worked between 35 to 40 hours.
No such association was observed among men; in fact, the diabetes rate tended to decline, the longer the hours that men worked per week.
The researchers say there is no clear explanation for the difference in diabetes risk between men and women, but suggest that women effectively work even longer hours, once household chores and childcare are taken into consideration.
Furthermore, longer working hours may trigger a chronic stress response that increases the risk of hormonal abnormalities and insulin resistance.
Considering the rapid and substantial increase of diabetes prevalence in Canada and worldwide, identifying modifiable risk factors such as long work hours is of major importance to improve prevention and orient policy making, as it could prevent numerous cases of diabetes and diabetes related chronic diseases."