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Our aim was to quantify whether fewer than expected men with diabetes were in employment. We asked 200 unselected, consecutive male patients (aged 18–65), attending the diabetes clinic for routine appointments, standard questions relating to employment. Seventy-three (36.5%) patients were not working of whom 41% were type 1, 48% type 2 on oral hypoglycaemics or diet, and 11% were insulin-treated type 2 patients. The mean age (SD) of the working group (W) was 44.6 (11.7) and of the non-working group (NW) was 51.6 (10.9) years (p<0.001). The duration of diabetes and glycaemic control were similar between the two groups (W = 10.6 [10.0] vs NW = 12.9 [10.8] years, HbA1c W = 7.7% [1.3] vs NW = 8.1 [1.2]). In the non-working group, 32.9% were unemployed, 50.7% medically retired and 16.4% had taken early retirement. The unemployment rate corresponds to 12% compared to the general male unemployment rate in Greater London in May 2001 of 4.2%. The non-working group had a higher incidence of other serious medical conditions (46.6% vs 27.6%, p = 0.02) and serious diabetic complications (16.4% vs 1.5%, p<0.001) compared to the working group. However, the majority had no complications that would explain inability to work and diabetes itself seems to be linked to unemployment. Fifty percent of non-workers received Incapacity Benefit, 36.9% received Disability Living Allowance, 38.3% a pension and 10.9% unemployment benefit. Only 5.5% received no benefits at all.We conclude that, in this small sample, a high percentage of the male working-age population with diabetes are not working due either to medical reasons or to unemployment, even though most seem capable of work. Very few individuals received no form of State benefit. It is important, however, not to extrapolate our findings to all groups with diabetes, and a larger study in a more representative population would be welcome. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons.