Workplace bullying ups risk of prescriptions for anxiety, depression, insomnia

December 12, 2012

Witnessing or being on the receiving end of bullying at work heightens the risk of employees being prescribed antidepressants, sleeping pills, and tranquillisers, finds research published in BMJ Open.

Workplace bullying is linked to poorer among employees, but it is not clear if that translates into a greater need for drug treatment, and if the impact is similar for those witnessing bullying and those who find themselves on the receiving end of it.

The researchers asked 6606 public service employees working for the City of Helsinki in Finland - the largest employer in the country with 200 venues - about their experiences of workplace bullying, both personal and witnessed, between 2000 and 2002.

National registry data on purchases of prescribed "psychoactive" drugs - , sedatives, tranquillisers, and - were tracked for three years before the survey and for five years afterwards.

All participants were aged between 40 and 60, and were part of the Helsinki .

One in 20 employees said they were currently being bullied. A further one in five (18%) women and around one in eight men (12%) said they had been bullied before, either in the same job or in a previous job with another employer.

Around half the said that they had witnessed bullying in the workplace at least occasionally, while around one in 10 said they had witnessed it often.

The findings showed that workplace bullying was associated with subsequent for in both men and women.

Women were around 50% more likely to have a prescription for these drugs while men were around twice as likely to do so if they had been bullied at work.

And witnessing workplace bullying had a similar impact. Women were 53% more likely to be prescribed a psychoactive drug, while men were almost twice as likely to receive a prescription of this kind.

The associations remained after taking account of factors likely to influence the results, including previous medication for mental health issues, childhood bullying, social class and weight.

Between one in 10 and one in seven people claim to have been bullied at work in Finland, say the authors, who conclude: "Workplace bullying needs to be tackled proactively in an effective way to prevent its adverse consequences for mental health."

Explore further: Study suggests link between childhood bullying and adult intimate partner violence perpetration

More information: Workplace bullying and subsequent psychotropic medication: a cohort study with register linkages doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001660

Related Stories

'Ambient' bullying gives employees urge to quit

June 29, 2012

Merely showing up to work in an environment where bullying goes on is enough to make many of us think about quitting, a new study suggests. Canadian researchers writing in the journal Human Relations published by SAGE, have ...

Recommended for you

In analyzing a scene, we make the easiest judgments first

September 3, 2015

Psychology researchers who have hypothesized that we classify scenery by following some order of cognitive priorities may have been overlooking something simpler. New evidence suggests that the fastest categorizations our ...

Forensic examiners pass the face matching test

September 1, 2015

The first study to test the skills of FBI agents and other law enforcers who have been trained in facial recognition has provided a reassuring result - they perform better than the average person or even computers on this ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.