Background Doing ‘people work’ is a central part of many psychologists’ daily work tasks. However, interactions with colleagues and patients sometimes result in exposure to sexual harassment, bullying, threats, and violence, all of which may have negative consequences for individual health. This study examines the prevalence rates of such negative acts, sleeping problems and absence from work among Swedish psychologists.
Methods Psychologists with completed university education (n = 3036 (2296 women and 740 men)), were included. The mean age was 46 years (SD 11 years) and all had previously responded to a cross-sectional survey with a response rate of 48% (N = 3240). Exposure to bullying, sexual harassment, threats, and violence were assessed with validated single-items that were responded to yes or no. Three items assessed sleeping problems (problems falling asleep, nightly awakenings, early awakenings). Each item was dichotomized into “no problem” or “problem” and thereafter summed into an index score (range 0–3; higher scores indicated poorer sleep). One item assessed absence from work (dichotomized into “rarely” ≤ 3 weeks; “often” > three weeks).
Results The proportion reporting bullying, sexual harassment, threats and violence were 5.6%, 2.9%, 1.2%, and 1.3%, respectively. In addition, 11% and 12% reported severe sleep problems (i.e. indication on all three items) and high absence from work, respectively. Age and gender adjusted logistic regression analyses, including only people expressing no sleep problems at all or severe problems, showed that both bullying (OR = 5.29, 95% CI = 3.36 to 8.33) and threats (OR = 2.94, 95% CI = 1.98 to 4.38) statistically predicted severe sleep problems. No other effects were observed.
Conclusion Acknowledging the seriousness of all negative acts, the prevalence rates and the associations between work related bullying and threats on the one hand and on the other severe sleep problems, suggests that these acts are a concern for Swedish psychologists.
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