Research has found that if you work shifts, you could face an increased risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This means that groups including police officers, factory workers and those that work in the hospitality industry could all be affected.

The study compared people who worked standard office hours with those who worked unsociable shift patterns, and found that working shifts increased the chance of developing type 2 diabetes by 9 percent.

Previous studies have made a link between shift work and increased weight and appetite, which are both risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The study, which was published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that the risk is highest for men who work on a rotating shift pattern; this group was 42 percent more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than those that work fixed shift patterns at the same time every day of the week. The research involved carrying out a meta-analysis of 12 previous studies which had involved over 225,000 people, 15,000 of whom had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Previous studies into the impact that working shifts can have on a person’s health found that these workers were more likely to develop digestive problems, heart problems and some cancers. However, this is the first study which has made a link with type 2 diabetes.

Professor Nick Wareham, from the University of Cambridge Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, said:

“The meta-analysis provides an insightful summary which covers data from several previously published studies and highlights the link between type 2 diabetes and shift pattern working. The results have found that there appears to be a moderate link between the two, which seems to be stronger in men.”

He also pointed out that the research “cannot exclude the possibility that the results can be explained by other factors which are linked to shift working, such as poor sleep, or increased stress. If it is eventually shown that the shift work itself has a link to type 2 diabetes, then the next step would be to establish which interventions could be performed to reduce the risks to those people who work shifts.”

2.9 million people across the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, and around 90 percent of these cases are people who have developed type 2. It is also estimated that there could be 850,000 people living with undiagnosed diabetes.

Director of research for Diabetes UK, Dr Alasdair Rankin, said:

“The study, which has combined evidence from previous research clearly suggests that shift workers are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. While the exact reasons for this are not clear, these findings are significant. If you are engaged in shift work, I would recommend that you complete a diabetes risk assessment either at your local pharmacy or online.”

Once diagnosed, type 2 diabetes can usually be controlled by lifestyle changes, such as altering your diet and taking more exercise. Your GP may also prescribe medication which will help you to control your blood sugar levels. If you have any concerns about your health, visit your GP today.