Long days. Unpleasant coworkers. Low pay. Child care hassles. Work stress is really hard on us working parents and others as well.
However, you might want to pay a little more attention to your level of work stress, especially if you’ve got a family history of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Excessive work stress may actually put your health at risk!
Last month a research study was published showing a link between high work stress and risk for diabetes. Other studies have shown that excessive work stress increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes as well.
The study published last month showed that people with increased work stress were over 50% more likely to develop diabetes over a 12-year follow up period than those who had less work stress. This is huge! Diabetes is an enormous risk factor for heart disease, our country’s number-one killer.
Other studies have showed similar findings. It would be tempting to assume that the increased diabetes risk is due to unhealthy lifestyle habits. You know, you’re working long hours so you’re not exercising and you’re eating too much fast food.
Not true. There was a study published in 2014 that looked at this idea. Looking at almost 125,000 people, they were able to show an increased risk of diabetes even after controlling for unhealthy lifestyle habits.
So what might causing this increased risk? There are a lot of possibilities. Stress raises cortisol levels in the body which over time can change the way the body metabolizes sugars. Cortisol metabolism also strongly correlates with fatty liver disease, which is associated with diabetes.
The mechanism really isn’t well understood. There may be numerous mechanisms. What is clear, though is that excessive work stress raises the risk for a number of serious health problems.
What should we do with this information? First of all, DO NOT assume that just because you eat healthy and exercise regularly you are protected from the health effects of stress. The research is very clear that stress is one of many determinants of health and they are ALL important!
DO eat healthy. DO exercise. But also please make sure you are managing your stress in healthy ways. Get plenty of sleep. Practice your faith and practice gratitude. Make time to play and have fun with the people you love.
Have perspective on the influence of your career on your life. Don’t let your work become the end-all and be-all of your life. Your work is how you earn money to support yourself and your family. Your work is one way you strive to leave your mark on the world. Don’t let it consume you and become the way you define yourself.
Remember, no one ever looked back from their last days on Earth and said, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”
QUESTION: Does this research about work stress and health risk surprise you? Will you change anything about your work habits based on this information?