Examining diabetes and workforce health

Aim and purpose
Evidence for the socioeconomic impact of diabetes within the labour force is now relatively well established, a fact which researchers in Diabetes Management Research at Steno have contributed to with analyses of quantitative data obtained from Danish population registers. This work has detailed how diabetes increases the risk of negative labour market outcomes such as early retirement, absenteeism and presenteeism. Important as they are, such studies tell us little from the perspective of the person with diabetes and how they experience diabetes management in the context of work life. Concomitantly, relatively little is known about how to address and prevent the negative labour market outcomes associated with diabetes. 

In Diabetes Management Research at Steno, our current focus in the area of diabetes and work life is on generating detailed and nuanced insight into the perspectives of people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. In looking to experiences regarding management of the condition in the context of work our ultimate interest is in finding ways to provide support for PWD at work which will improve the quality of their working lives and, by implication, their chances for remaining active and productive in the labour market.     

The design and development of interventions addressing diabetes management in work life are based upon the five principles for research which guide Health Promotion Research at Steno. In accord with this, techniques and tools from Design Thinking are used to develop interventions. Common to both is the belief that development processes must be user driven and this principle determines how we attempt to provide support for people with diabetes at work. 

We use both qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate how people with diabetes experience diabetes management in the context of their working lives. In our approach to qualitative interviews, we capture complexity by ensuring that participants reflect important differentiations impacting on diabetes management at work. Diabetes specific factors here include; diabetes type, diabetes duration, diabetes complications and diabetes medication. Similarly, the type of work people are engaged in and the working environment in which this is undertaken play an important role and thus we also seek differentiation along such lines as; job status, job type, working hours and working environment. With a focus on the lived experience of diabetes management in the context of work life, we are guided and inspired by ethnographic/phenomenological approaches to qualitative interviews.      

Surveys have also proved an important method in the development of this research area. Here we have obtained data from, respectively, people with type 1 diabetes of working age, people with type 2 of working age and people of working age without diabetes. While there are some similarities between the experiences of people with type 1 and type 2 in terms of their work lives, there are also significant differences and we have sought to capture these distinctions in the design of our questionnaires. 

We have also sought to examine the attitudes of people without diabetes regarding their willingness to pay for work accommodations for people with diabetes at their place of work. In this study, discrete choice experiments were used to generate willingness to pay (WTP) results. 

Target groups
Our main target group is people of working age with – or at risk of developing – diabetes. In addition, our work also targets researchers and professionals within fields such areas as psychosocial research in diabetes and occupational health and safety. 

Companies, unions, NGO’s and other stakeholders will also have a substantial interest in the results of this research.

We expect outcome in three main areas

  • •Knowledge relevant to the design and development of interventions targeting workplace risks related to diabetes.
  • •Interventions designed to address specific aspects of diabetes management at work.  
  • •Heightened social awareness of the challenges faced by people with diabetes in the context of work life. 

Sidst opdateret 28-09-2016


Bryan Cleal
Senior Researcher
Diabetes Prevention Research