A study published earlier this week suggests that women who work more than 45 hours per week on a regular basis have a higher risk of diabetes compared to women who worked a regular schedule of 35 to 40 hours per week. An increased risk of diabetes for men who work similarly long hours was not detected.
The study which tracked data over the course of 12 years, included more than 7000 people from Canada and concluded that women who work long hours actually had a 63 percent risk of developing diabetes, which is a leading killer of women in both the United States and Canada. The disease ranks as the number seven cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and is number six in Canada. According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2015 report, that ranking rises to number five for Latinas and number four for Black women in America.
Though the Canadian study did not specifically mention women of color, researchers have suggested there may be a correlation between the risk and the types of jobs women work—indicating that previous studies have shown that people who work more in lower paying jobs have a greater risk of diabetes as well, which means there may be some socio-economic implications at play.
The study also makes note of the fact that while the difference in risk between genders is unclear, it may be that women tend to do more domestic work in their off-hours compared to men and may have less time to devote to self-care and stress management.
Stress and anxiety—which are often caused by being overworked and overextended—as most of us are now aware, can have major effects on physical health and well-being and can also affect diet, sleep and exercise habits, all of which have the power to keep diabetes at bay.
Having a family history of diabetes, I can’t help but think there really is something to this. I come from a long line of Latinas who worked themselves to the bone daily and took very little time to care for themselves, many of whom suffer or still suffer from diabetes. The connection seems apparent, and since we’re already at an increased risk for this deadly disease, improving the work-life balance seems like a good way to minimize some of that risk, especially since making time for self-care and relaxation comes with a host of other benefits as well.
Researchers also made the connection between the economic cost of increased diabetes rates to employers, encouraging them to cut back the workloads of employees. “Workplaces should definitely help people work less,” study co-author Mahee Gilbert-Ouimet said. “Ultimately, their health depends on it.”