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Positive Work Relationships Linked to Lowering Risk for Diabetes

Update Date: May 10, 2013 11:40 AM EDT

The causes of type II diabetes are often attributed to obesity, high blood pressure, lack of physical activity and poor diet. According to the American Diabetes association, nearly eight percent of the 25.8 million people in this country have diabetes with 1.9 million new cases recorded in 2010 in people older than 20-years-old. Although the association presents statistics for type I and type II diabetes together, type II diabetes is known to be more prevalent and on the rise. Due to the fact that diabetes' cases and costs continue to rise, researchers are still studying new ways of preventing the disease by understanding other possible causes of it. A new study, conducted by Dr. Sharon Toker of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Management in Israel, found that the dynamics of the work force could greatly increase or decrease one's risk for type II diabetes.

The research study assessed the health of 5,843 male and female employees within different job environments for over three and a half years. These individuals had all visited a health center for a physical checkup sponsored by their respective companies. All of the participants in the study started off healthy and did not have diabetes. When the participants returned to get the follow up physical 41 months later, 182 of them had developed type II diabetes.

After using an expanded job strain model to measure the work force environment, the researchers found that employees who stated that they had a high level of social support within their jobs had a 22 percent lowered chance of getting type II diabetes, whereas, the participants that experienced being over-or-under-worked had an increased risk for type II diabetes by 18 percent. An expanded job strain model combines the factors of social support, amount of workload, and individual control over work pace and goals. These findings were concluded after possible contributing factors, such as age, body mass index, activity level and family history were accounted for.

"You don't want to see working populations have an increasing rate of diabetes. It's costly to both employees and employers, resulting in absenteeism and triggering expensive medical insurance," Toker stated.

The researchers recommend that companies work harder in finding a better balance of work and social support within the work setting. Medical complications are not desirable, and in order to attempt to limit these health issues, work places should reconsider how they go about assigning work and promoting a healthier and more supportive environment.

The findings were published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology

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