Threats and violence at work is common in human service sectors. How this affects health and work of the employees is still being debated.
We aimed to examine the associations between exposure to threats and violence and consequences in terms of overall workforce participation, sick-leave and permanent health benefits.
In 2010, 5,333 Danish employees working in human service sectors filled in questionnaires about exposure to different kinds of threats and violence, including severity and frequency. Among these, 5,171 were not receiving any permanent health related transfer income at the time of the questionnaire, were then followed for 3.5 years in a population-based register of transfer incomes. Outcomes were overall workforce participation, sick-leave and permanent health benefits. The associations were analysed by logistic regression, adjusted for sector, gender, age and chronic disease.
Of the population, 30% was on sick-leave at some point during follow-up, but only 65 persons (1.3%) received a permanent health benefit.
Both severity of violence and threats was associated with new sick-leave episodes. Moreover, the severity of violence was associated with overall workforce participation. The frequency of both violence and threats was also associated with new sick-leave episodes. In general, only very few of the specific types of threats and violence were associated with the outcomes. None of the exposures was associated with permanent health benefits.
The size of the study sample was too limited to reach sufficient precision in the estimates to analyse each sector separately. In addition, some types of violence and threats were rare and so were permanent health benefits. This may have caused us to miss potential associations.
Frequent exposure to threats and violence in human service sectors was associated with new sick-leave episodes, and severity of the exposure was associated with overall work participation and new sick-leave episodes.
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