Author(s): Chitaka, A., Zwane, T., Kuonza, L., Naicker, N., Tlotleng, N., Wilson, K.

Source: Public  Health Bulletin South Africa. 2023. 20(1).

Summary: In South Africa, diabetes mellitus (DM) is an escalating non-communicable disease (NCD) and a leading cause of death. Certain occupational groups have an increased risk of diabetes. This study aimed to identify occupations associated with increased risk of DM mortality. We conducted a cross-sectional study using Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) mortality data. Participants aged 16—70 years, whose underlying cause of death was DM and whose occupations were provided, were included in the study. We used multivariable logistic regression to assess the association between DM mortality and occupation. Deaths from diabetes accounted for 184 080 (4.44%) of 4 147 326 total deaths for the period 2009—2016. In the unadjusted analysis, mortality odds ratios (MORs) increased significantly between 2009 and 2016. The adjusted MORs indicated that all major occupation groups had a higher risk of DM-associated mortality compared to the reference major occupation (skilled agricultural and fishery workers). We conclude that workers in all occupations are at comparatively high risk of diabetes mellitus mortality in South Africa. Specific risk factors include diet, sedentary work and lifestyle, and the causes of stress and reduced mental health. Diabetes mellitus morbidity likely affects productivity leading to adverse impacts on individuals, businesses and other entities, and the economy in general. Interventions and preventative measures (policies and awareness) are therefore indicated in all workplaces irrespective of the occupational group. We recommend that workplaces provide:

  • Access to, and education on, healthy food options that reduce the risk of DM;
  • Support programmes and awareness campaigns regarding stress management and mental health;
  • Awareness programmes and specific policies to prevent workplace violence and harassment;
  • Policies and practices to alleviate long hours of sedentary work by encouraging periodic physical activity within a safe working environment.