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Workplace bullying and the risk of cardiovascular disease and depression
  1. M Kivimäki1,
  2. M Virtanen2,
  3. M Vartia2,
  4. M Elovainio3,
  5. J Vahtera2,
  6. L Keltikangas-Järvinen1
  1. 1Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, PO Box 9, FIN-00014, Finland
  2. 2Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 aA, FIN-00250 Helsinki, Finland
  3. 3National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health, PO Box 220, FIN-00520 Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Kivimäki
 Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, PO Box 9, FIN-00014, Finland;


Aims: To examine exposure to workplace bullying as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and depression in employees.

Methods: Logistic regression models were related to prospective data from two surveys in a cohort of 5432 hospital employees (601 men and 4831 women), aged 18–63 years. Outcomes were new reports of doctor diagnosed cardiovascular disease and depression during the two year follow up among those who were free from these diseases at baseline.

Results: The prevalence of bullying was 5% in the first survey and 6% in the second survey. Two per cent reported bullying experiences in both surveys, an indication of prolonged bullying. After adjustment for sex, age, and income, the odds ratio of incident cardiovascular disease for victims of prolonged bullying compared to non-bullied employees was 2.3 (95% CI 1.2 to 4.6). A further adjustment for overweight at baseline attenuated the odds ratio to 1.6 (95% CI 0.8 to 3.5). The association between prolonged bullying and incident depression was significant, even after these adjustments (odds ratio 4.2, 95% CI 2.0 to 8.6).

Conclusions: A strong association between workplace bullying and subsequent depression suggests that bullying is an aetiological factor for mental health problems. The victims of bullying also seem to be at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, but this risk may partly be attributable to overweight.

  • cardiovascular disease
  • depression
  • occupational health
  • workplace bullying

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  • Contributors: M Kivimäki, the principal investigator, designed the hypothesis, coordinated the project, supervised the analyses, and was the principal author of the paper. M Virtanen helped in data collection and conducted all analyses. M Virtanen, M Vartia, M Elovainio, J Vahtera, and L Keltikangas-Järvinen contributed to the planning of the study design, interpretation of results, and writing of the paper.