Workplace Bullying Increases Mental Illness Risk

Summary: Workplace bullying can have a very negative impact on the mental health of employees who are targeted.

– Mental illness costs nations huge amounts of money each year in lost productivity and treatment costs.

– Workplace bullying can be reduced if there are effective programs in place and employees report it to management.

Over 6,600 government workers employed by the City of Helsinki, Finland were queried about workplace bullying by researchers. The research focused on workers who were between 40 and 60 years of age, during a two-year period between 2000 and 2002. About half of them said they had seen workplace bullying and about ten percent said they had seen it frequently. About five percent said they were being bullied and about 18% of the female respondents said they had been bullied. Twelve percent of male respondents said they had experienced the same kind of treatment.

Sadly, the research also showed bullying was linked to prescriptions for psychoactive drugs, following the harrassment. Women were 50% more likely have have such a prescription if they had experienced workplace bullying. Men were also much more likely to have such a prescription following a bullying incident. Psychoactive drugs in this research study included antidepressants, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers.

The mental illnesses which were referenced in the study as being more likely following bullying were depression, anxiety and insomnia. (Insomnia may not be classified by itself as mental illness, but it is associated with depression.)

The researchers said, “Workplace bullying needs to be tackled proactively in an effective way to prevent its adverse consequences for mental health.”

While it may not be surprising to anyone that workplace bullying causes stress, the link to depression and anxiety may be less well known. Also, bullying is something perhaps more typically thought of in relation to school children, but it does happen in adult contexts like workplaces.

The American Bar Association has written some tips for prevention of workplace bullying. Their main point is that it is necessary to have a clear policy in place which defines exactly what workplace violence is and what the consequences are. They also say only about one quarter to one half of incidents are reported.

Image Credit: Diego Grez