All humans are genetically susceptible to several diseases, including diabetes. In addition, regardless of low or high genetic risk, lifestyle factors including food choices, physical activity, and sleep influence an individual’s chance of developing diabetes. Until recently, there was less information about how these factors impact different populations based on their race/ethnicity and also for older individuals.
Obesity, high blood pressure and age increase risk of type 2 diabetes
Recently researchers looked at the long-term follow-up of over 10,000 adults who began without a diagnosis of diabetes to see what factors predicted the onset of diabetes. They studied two distinct populations. One group included mostly non-US-born Hispanic/Latino city dwellers with low education and income; only half had health insurance. The other represented higher-income non-Hispanic White adults; nearly all with insurance. As expected for both populations, being obese, having high blood pressure, and increasing age were all associated with diabetes risk. Similarly, higher moderate to vigorous physical activity was linked to less risk of developing diabetes.
Duration and type of work impact risk of type 2 diabetes
However, people who worked full-time had a much higher risk of diabetes than people who worked part-time (less than 35 hours per week). Over half of employed individuals in the mostly Hispanic/Latino group had jobs with moderate-to-high levels of physical activity. Only 7% of employed participants in the wealthier group worked in highly physical jobs. While the reason for elevated diabetes risk in full-time workers is unclear, the findings suggest that diabetes may be part of the work-related burden of disease.
We need to better understand the impact of the workplace on diabetes risk. Factors may include workplace stress (“job strain”) and also environmental exposure to pollutants and chemicals.