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Workplace bullying and sickness absence in hospital staff


OBJECTIVES In the past, evidence on the negative consequences of workplace bullying has been limited to cross sectional studies of self reported bullying. In this study, these consequences were examined prospectively by focusing on sickness absence in hospital staff.

METHODS The Poisson regression analyses of medically certified spells (⩾4 days) and self certified spells (1–3 days) of sickness absence, relating to bullying and other predictors of health, were based on a cohort of 674 male and 4981 female hospital employees aged 19–63 years. Data on sickness absence were gathered from employers' registers. Bullying and other predictors of health were measured by a questionnaire survey.

RESULTS 302 (5%) of the employees reported being victims of bullying. They did not differ from the other employees in terms of sex, age, occupation, type of job contract, hours of work, income, smoking, alcohol consumption, or physical activity. Victims of bullying had higher body mass and prevalence of chronic disease, and their rates of medically and self certified spells of sickness absence were 1.5 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.3 to 1.7) and 1.2 (1.1 to 1.4) times higher than those of the rest of the staff. The rate ratios remained significant after adjustment for demographic data, occupational background, behaviour involving risks to health, baseline health status, and sickness absence.

CONCLUSION Workplace bullying is associated with an increase in the sickness absenteeism of the hospital staff. Targets of bullying seem not to belong to any distinct group with certain demographic characteristics or occupational background.

  • workplace bullying
  • sickness absence
  • health
  • psychosocial factors
  • hospital staff

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