An Israeli study suggests that people who suffer from job burnout may be prone to developing a form of diabetes.
The research, apparently the first of its kind, doesn't definitively confirm a link between workplace stress and diabetes. But it does suggest that burnout could boost the risk of illness by a "magnitude similar to other risk factors, such as high body mass index, smoking and lack of physical exercise," said study lead author Samuel Melamed, an associate professor at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
Melamed and colleagues looked at the experiences of 677 Israeli workers who were followed from 1998 to 2003. Nearly 77 percent of the workers were men, and their average age was about 43 years.
The study findings appear in the November/December issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
Of the workers, 17 developed type 2 diabetes during the study period. The researchers found that people who experienced job burnout were 1.84 times more likely to become diabetic, even when factors like age, sex and obesity were taken into account.
The researchers looked at a smaller sample 507 workers and tried to statistically eliminate the possible effect of blood pressure levels. The result: The burned-out workers were then 4.32 times more likely to get type 2 diabetes.
The job burnout may be only part of the picture, Melamed said. "It is possible that these people are prone to diabetes because they can't handle stress very well," he said. "Their coping resources may have been depleted not only due to job stress but also life stresses, such as stressful life events and daily hassles."
Indeed, stress can disrupt the body's ability to process glucose, especially in people whose genetics make them vulnerable, said Richard Surwit, chief of the Division of Medical Psychology at Duke University Medical Center.
Surwit said the study results should be replicated in a much larger group of subjects. He said the study author "needs to look at hundreds of thousands of people to see if he gets the same thing."