Workplace harassment might make employees sick, according to study

January 8, 2015 by Marc Ransford

Workplace harassment is directly tied to a variety of physical and psychological problems suffered by victims, including stress, loss of sleep, depression and anxiety, says a new study from Ball State University.

"Workplace Harassment and Morbidity Among U.S. Adults" also found that were more likely to be female, obese, multiracial, and divorced or separated. The report is based on an analysis of 17,524 people who participated in the 2010 National Health Interview Survey and was recently published by the Journal of Community Health.

Jagdish Khubchandani, a education professor at Ball State and the study's lead author, said the results clearly show that bullying at the workplace hurts everyone.

"Harassment or bullying suffered by American employees is severe and extremely costly for employers across the country," he said. "Harassment harms victims, witnesses and organizations where such interactions occur."

The humiliation and ridicule of workplace harassment causes victims to have low self-esteem, concentration difficulties, anger, lower life satisfaction, reduced productivity and increased absenteeism, said Khubchandani, who coauthored the study with James Price, a faculty member at the University of Toledo.

The study found that over a 12-month period:

  • About 8 percent of all respondents said they were threatened, harassed or bullied in the workplace.
  • Females were 47 percent more likely to be bullied or harassed than males.
  • Individuals reporting higher rates of harassment included hourly workers, state and local government employees, multiple jobholders, night shift employees and those working irregular schedules.
  • Victims of harassment were more likely to be obese and smoke.
  • Female victims reported higher rates of distress, smoking, and pain disorders like migraine and neck pain.
  • Male victims were more likely to miss more than two weeks of work and suffer from asthma, ulcers and worsening of general health. In addition, male victims were more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension and angina pectoris.

Despite heightened awareness of the problem and an outpouring of support for victims of workplace bullying in the last decade, the study shows that American companies have a long way to go to eradicate such acts, Khubchandani said.

"Workplace harassment could be significantly reduced by American organizations if they were willing to accept the prevalence of the problem and acknowledge the high costs for employees and employers," he said. "Interventions to address should be comprehensive. Practices and policies should protect employees at risk, and there should be protocols to assist employees who are victimized."

To protect all —not just those at risk—Khubchandani said there should there should be periodic education and reinforcement of policies across the organization.

Explore further: Bullies in the workplace: Researcher examines the struggles for victims to tell their story

More information: "Workplace Harassment and Morbidity Among US Adults: Results from the National Health Interview Survey." Journal of Community Health, November 2014. … 07/s10900-014-9971-2

Related Stories

Bullies in the workplace: Researcher examines the struggles for victims to tell their story

October 15, 2014
The stories are shocking and heartbreaking, but they are often disjointed and hard to follow. In severe cases, the narratives are even more chaotic. This is reality for victims of workplace bullying and a major reason why ...

Recommended for you

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys, study finds

September 21, 2017
Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to ...

Excess dietary manganese promotes staph heart infection

September 21, 2017
Too much dietary manganese—an essential trace mineral found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts—promotes infection of the heart by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph").

Frequent blood donations safe for some, but not all

September 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Some people may safely donate blood as often as every eight weeks—but that may not be a healthy choice for all, a new study suggests.

Being active saves lives whether a gym workout, walking to work or washing the floor

September 21, 2017
Physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death, says a large international study involving more than 130,000 people from 17 countries published this week in The Lancet.

Higher manganese levels in children correlate with lower IQ scores, study finds

September 21, 2017
A study led by environmental health researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine finds that children in East Liverpool, Ohio with higher levels of Manganese (Mn) had lower IQ scores. The research appears ...

Higher levels of fluoride in pregnant woman linked to lower intelligence in their children

September 20, 2017
Fluoride in the urine of pregnant women shows a correlation with lower measures of intelligence in their children, according to University of Toronto researchers who conducted the first study of its kind and size to examine ...


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.