Stress and anxiety in the workplace can lead to more than just a lousy day. In fact, workplace stress can directly affect your health. According to a study published in the medical journal Psychosomatic Medicine, job strain is strongly correlated with type 2 diabetes. Specifically, those who experience excessive stress in a work environment have a 45% higher risk of the disease than those who experience less stress at their jobs.


Scientists from the University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg and the Institute of Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HGMU) observed data from the MONICA/KORA cohort study. This study, spanning 20 years of collected data, centers on the development of chronic diseases, specifically myocardial infarction and diabetes. More than 5,000 employed participants between the ages of 29 and 66 years old were observed and analyzed, none of whom had diabetes prior to the study. After an average of 13 to 20 years, almost 300 individuals were discovered to have type 2 diabetes.

While obesity, age, and gender are known to be conventional risk factors for diabetes, workplace stress was identified as a strong, independent risk factor. In fact, Dr. Cornelia Huth and Professor Karl-Heinz Ladwig, lead scientists of the study, found that those who work in high-pressure environments have a 45% increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Defining High-Level Stress

But don't think worrying about an important meeting or deadline will cause your health to take a nose-dive. 'Normal job stress,' as Professor Ladwig mentions, isn't what the researchers are speaking of in their conclusions. "According to our data, roughly one in five people in employment is affected by high levels of mental stress at work," he says, defining high-level stress as "[...] the situation in which the individuals concerned rate the demands made upon them as very high, and at the same time they have little scope for maneuver or for decision making."

Steps Towards Prevention

This study emphasizes the important role environmental and lifestyle factors play in developing a range of diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Researchers hope that their findings will contribute to the discovery of new approaches to treating and preventing some of the most common and widespread diseases. "In view of the huge health implications of stress-related disorders, preventive measures to prevent common diseases such as diabetes should therefore also begin at this point," concludes Professor Ladwig.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015


Huth, Cornelia PhD, Thorand, Barbara PhD, Baumert, Jens PhD; Kruse, Johannes MD; Emeny, Rebecca Thwing PhD, Schneider, Andrea, Meisinger, Christa MD, Ladwig, Karl-Heinz PhD, MD. Job Strain as a Risk Factor for the Onset of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Findings From the MONICA/KORA Augsburg Cohort Study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 6 August 2014. DOI:10.1097