Job Burnout May Increase Diabetes Risk

Study Shows Burned-Out Staffers More Likely to Get Type 2 Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 21, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 21, 2006 -- A new study shows that workers suffering from job burnout may be more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, comes from Israeli researchers who included Samuel Melamed, PhD, of Tel Aviv University's medical school.

The researchers studied 677 employed men and women in Israel for three to five years.

When the study started, participants were about 42 years old, on average. They were "apparently healthy," the researchers note.

The workers, who were employed by several companies, were split into five groups, based on job type:

  • Senior management
  • Middle management
  • Professionals (including engineers, teachers, lab technicians, and computer workers)
  • Nonprofessional workers
  • Self-employed workers

Participants completed a 14-item survey on job burnout, rating how often they felt emotionally exhausted, physically fatigued, and mentally weary.

Their ratings were based on responses to survey statements including: "I feel like my emotional batteries are dead," "I am physically exhausted," and "My thinking process is slow."

The results showed 348 workers had high levels of burnout; the other 329 tested low for burnout.

The workers also completed surveys about their medical history, smoking, drinking, physical activity, height, and weight. Most also got their blood pressure checked.

Over the next three to five years, 17 workers reported being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes in adults.

The highly burned-out workers were 84% more likely to report being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than those with low burnout levels.

Still, the vast majority of workers -- burned out or not -- didn't report a diabetes diagnosis. Only 3% of the highly burned-out group reported a diabetes diagnosis, compared to less than 2% of those with low burnout.

It's not clear exactly how job burnout might make type 2 diabetes more likely.

Melamed's team accounted for other diabetes risk factors, including BMI (body mass index, a measure of overweight), age, and sedentary lifestyles. Also, high blood pressure didn't seem to explain the findings, the researchers note.

Follow-up surveys conducted at the end of the study showed little change in burnout levels.

Further studies should be done to check the findings, write Melamed and colleagues.

Meanwhile, experts say you can better handle job stress by assessing your situation, looking for possible solutions (including a new job), and using stress-busters such as exercise and relaxation techniques.

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SOURCES: Melamed, S. Psychosomatic Medicine, November 2006; vol 68: pp 863-869. WebMD Feature: "Workplace Stress and Your Health." Health Behavior News Service.

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