People who are worried about losing their jobs may be more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, according to a new analysis.
Compared to people who felt secure in their jobs, people who were experiencing so-called job insecurity had a 19 percent higher rate of new cases of diabetes, which researchers called a "modest increased risk."
The study can't prove that job insecurity causes diabetes. Still, said lead author Jane Ferrie, "In an ideal world, the sort of thing I'd like to see come out of this study is a reduction in job insecurity and an increase in secure job contracts and reasonable wages."
About one in 10 adults have diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. Most have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body can't make or process enough of the hormone insulin.
For the new analysis, Ferrie, of the University of Bristol and University College London in the U.K., and colleagues compiled data from 19 studies involving a total of 140,825 adults in the U.S., Australia and Europe who were employed and diabetes free when they enrolled in the studies.
At the outset, participants were asked if they were afraid of losing their jobs in the near future. Depending on the study, from 6 percent to 40 percent of respondents said yes, they did fear for their jobs.
Over the next 10 years, on average, the annual rate of new diabetes cases in the studies ranged from about 9 for every 10,000 participants to about 85 for every 10,000.
People who reported job insecurity at the beginning of the study were 19 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes during the follow-up period, after taking age and sex into account, according to the report in CMAJ.
When the researchers restricted their analysis to the 15 studies with data on factors other than age and sex that might influence a person's risk, job insecurity was still tied to a 12 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with diabetes.
The new analysis fills a gap, Ferrie and colleagues suggest. Job insecurity has already been linked with higher body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height. Past studies also found that people experiencing job insecurity had an increased risk of heart attacks and deaths related to heart problems.
A high BMI is one risk factor for diabetes, which in turn is a risk factor for heart disease.
Job-related stress can cause people to overeat and overindulge in other unhealthy behaviors, and stress hormones can directly promote weight gain as well, all of which could contribute to increased risk for diabetes.
Individuals shouldn't be too concerned about the findings, however, since the study looked at diabetes risk across a large group of people, Ferrie told Reuters Health. "This is not going to tell any individual about their risk."
"We need a population health approach and to reduce people's exposure to job insecurity," she said.
But the new study is something to keep in mind for people facing job insecurity - especially people who are already at high risk for diabetes, such as men and women who are overweight and women who temporarily developed diabetes while pregnant, said Edwin Torres, of Montefiore Health System in New York City.
"This is a phenomenon I've seen as a provider and in the literature," said Torres, who was not involved with the new study, but is a nurse practitioner completing his PhD on the subject at Binghamton University in New York.
"If you lose your job or have job insecurity, make sure you're exercising," he said.