Michigan’s Autoworkers Face Higher Risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease


Michigan’s autoworkers are twice as likely to have diabetes compared to the overall U.S. population, says a new study from Michigan State University. That, combined with a high prevalence of other health issues, suggests the workforce is at a higher risk of heart disease when compared to the rest of the nation.

“We hypothesized that this group may have a higher incidence of diabetes and risk for cardiovascular disease, and we wanted to prove it,” says Ved Gossain, a professor of medicine at MSU, who led the study published in the Journal of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Obesity.

Of the 190 autoworkers that participated in the study, 67 percent had higher levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol than the national average of 31 percent. Elevated LDL levels put individuals at greater risk of a heart attack, Gossain says.

Results also showed that 53 percent of study participants were obese, with another nearly 36 percent considered overweight. In comparison, about 35 percent of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, while only 16 percent of employees were current smokers, nearly 58 percent were former smokers, which also increased health risks.

Prior data obtained by General Motors and the United Auto Workers showed heart disease was the number one cause of death and disability within the workplace, with diabetes coming in fourth for male employees and eighth for female employees.

The researchers also evaluated blood pressure, stress levels, and physical activity, which were were found to have minimal effect within the group.

“The study is a good representation of the health of autoworkers in this area and possibly the Midwest,” Gossain says. “Hopefully companies will look at this data and begin to implement health and wellness programs that their employees will participate in.”