Workplace Bullying Associated with Coronary Heart Disease

A large-scale Danish study shows that targets of on-the-job bullying and violence face significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The study analyzed data from 79,201 participants in Denmark and Sweden with no prior history of CVD. The participants were aged 18 to 65, with a mean  age of 43 years, and 53% were women.

Nine percent of the participants were subsequently bullied at work and 13% experienced violence or threats of violence at work.

The study found:

  • Compared with participants who were not bullied at work, those who were had a 59% increased risk for CVD after adjusting for sex, age, marital status, educational level and country of birth.
  • People who said they were bullied frequently (almost every day) in the past 12 months had a 120 percent higher risk of CVD.
  • Workers who suffered the intentional use of force or threats of force at work  had a 25% higher risk of CVD.

The study defined workplace bullying as repeated or enduring psychological aggressors at work.

Stopping workplace bullying would prevent a ‘sizable number” of heart attacks and strokes.

The study found “consistent support for our hypothesis that workplace bullying and workplace violence are associated with a higher risk of new-onset CVD.”  If the association is causal, the researchers add, “eliminating workplace bullying and violence would prevent a sizable number of CVD events from happening.”

The researchers said workplace bullying and violence contribute to lower self-esteem and loss of coping resources. They may elicit a range of coping mechanisms, such as over-eating and excessive alcohol consumption. Bullied workers also are three times more likely to report depression.

The perpetrators of workplace bullying were mostly from inside the organization – 79% were colleagues, supervisors, or subordinates.

The study, “Workplace bullying and workplace violence as risk factors for cardiovascular disease: a multi-cohort study,” was published on November 19 by the European Health Journal.

One thought on “Workplace Bullying Associated with Coronary Heart Disease”

  1. This is true. Stress related illness had awful effects in one of my previous workplaces. Other areas besides heart problems seemed related– hoping for more studies.
    The workplace policies and procedures that are getting better regarding sexual harassment do mention other harassment, vaguely, and in only one or two sentences. It would be inferred that other types of harassment might have the same pathways as sexual harassment, but not being spelled out usually gets the entire issue overlooked. Still a lot of work to do for awareness on all sides and maybe educating the bigger bosses and HR to keep an eye on turnover at the very least… a unit that loses people due to quitting, going to other departments, going to other jobs nearby, a few firings, a few moving out of the area, a few early retirements and a few going out on disability…. add them all together please, and someone should be saying, “Wait a minute….” Thank you for the article!

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