Employees with diabetes are not more tired

March 16, 2005

Employees with diabetes are not automatically more tired due to a combination of work and illness. However, Dutch researcher Iris Weijman found that employees with diabetes who have several chronic conditions and those who experience inconvenience from their illness do have a higher risk of fatigue.

Employees with diabetes become tired more frequently because their energy balance is more easily disrupted. Due to the double burden of illness and work, researchers expected that employees with diabetes would have a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of fatigue. Weijman demonstrated that this assumption was not correct.

In a favourable environment, people with diabetes can be valuable employees. The results from Weijman's research will help to improve the supervision of employees with diabetes by professionals in the health care and employment sectors, such as internists, occupational physicians and reintegration advisers.

People who suffer from diabetes and several chronic complaints have a higher risk of fatigue due to the combination of illness and work. Patients who experience considerable inconvenience because of the symptoms of the disease are more frequently tired, as well as those who perceive performing important self-management activities as a burden. A decrease in the work pressure and in particular the support of colleagues and managers are very important factors in reducing the strain on employees who experience many complaints from the disease.

Self-management activities such as injecting insulin, following dietary guidelines and checking the blood sugar level are important for people with diabetes. Weijman showed that people who do not find it inconvenient to perform these activities, feel healthier. The burdensomeness experienced is in part determined by how competent an individual feels about carrying out these tasks.

Weijman discovered that tired employees with diabetes also have a different outlook on their disease and their work situation. They were more likely to find flexibility in the work annoying, whereas people with few tiredness complaints prefer flexibility. Employees with few complaints probably find that flexible conditions make it easier for them to combine their disease and work.
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The research is part of the NWO programme 'Fatigue at work'.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

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