Diabetes Risk Linked to Occupation

Certain occupations carry a threefold risk of diabetes, and increasing physical activity in these individuals could be a step toward prevention, according to a study published in Diabetologia.

The nationwide study included all Swedish citizens born between 1937 and 1979 who were employed between 2001 and 2013 (n=4,550,892). Researchers used national registers to identify those with a diabetes diagnosis between 2006 and 2015 (n=201,717). Researchers analyzed diabetes prevalence in 2013 (mean age, 51 years; range 35-67 years) and age-standardized incidence (per 1,000 person-years) in the 30 most common occupations. They obtained information on body mass index (BMI), physical fitness, and smoking from the National Conscription and Medical Birth Registers.

In 2013, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes was 5.2% in men and 3.2% in women; overall prevalence was 4.2%. In men, diabetes was most common in those who were motor vehicle drivers (8.8%); in women, diabetes was most common among those working in manufacturing (6.4%).

In men, incidence was highest among manufacturing workers (9.41) and professional drivers (9.32) and lowest among university teachers (3.44). In women, incidence was highest in manufacturing workers (7.20) and cleaners (6.18) and lowest in physiotherapists (2.20).

Overall, professional drivers, manufacturing workers, and cleaners were at the highest risk for diabetes, which could be due to irregular hours and shifts, stress, and sleeping time associated with these occupations, according to the study. The occupations with highest incidence were those characterized by low socioeconomic status in both skilled and unskilled manual workers.

The age-standardized incidence of diabetes per 1,000 person-years was 5.19 overall; it was higher in men (6.36) than women (4.03). There was a strong, positive association between incidence of type 2 diabetes and mean BMI within the 30 most frequent occupations in men and women. The association between occupation and type 2 diabetes coincided with vast differences in the prevalence of lifestyle risk factors.

The researchers said individuals in high-risk occupations were more likely to be overweight, smoke, and have lower physical fitness, which likely contributes to a high prevalence and incidence of type 2 diabetes. These differences were seen at younger ages as well.

“These findings indicate that job title is a risk indicator rather than a causal factor in relation to type 2 diabetes,” the researchers concluded. “If workplace interventions could reduce weight and increase physical activity among employees in these occupations, major health gains may be made.” Read more