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A multi-cohort study with meta-analysis was conducted to examine whether employees exposed to social stressors at work, such as workplace bullying and violence, have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The study included 45,905 men and women (40–65 years old and not diabetes at the start of the study) from four studies conducted in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Any workplace bullying and/or violence was self-reported by the participants. Diabetes data was ascertained through national health and medication records and death registers. Models adjustments were made for age, sex, country of birth, marital status and educational level.
From the abstract:
Nine percent of the population reported being bullied at work and 12% were exposed to workplace violence or threats of violence. Bullied participants had a 1.46 (95% CI 1.23, 1.74) times higher risk of developing diabetes compared with non-bullied participants. Exposure to violence or threats of violence was also associated with a higher risk of diabetes (HR 1.26 [95% CI 1.02, 1.56]). The risk estimates attenuated slightly when taking BMI into account, especially for bullying. The results were similar for men and women, and were consistent across cohorts.
Additionally from the study:
Bullying and violence can adversely affect personal resources, such as self-esteem and coping capacity. They have also been linked with an increased risk of chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by insulin resistance in liver and muscle and progressive beta cell failure. Induced negative emotions, such as depression and anxiety, may contribute to diabetes risk through prolonged activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system, or indirectly through impaired sleep, for example. Furthermore, stress-related coping strategies, such as comfort eating behavior with an increased preference for energy and nutrient-dense foods, may result in weight gain or an increase in waist circumference, which are both pivotal risk factors for diabetes.
Based on the study, the researchers found a higher risk of incident type 2 diabetes among employees exposed to bullying or violence in the workplace. Further research is needed to determine whether policies to reduce bullying and violence at work may reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes in working populations.
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