The established links between workplace bullying and poor mental health provide a prima facie reason to expect that workplace bullying increases the risk of suicidal ideation (thoughts) and behaviours. Until now, there has been no systematic summary of the available evidence. This systematic review summarises published studies reporting data on workplace bullying and suicidal ideation, or behaviour. The review sought to ascertain the nature of this association and highlight future research directions. 5 electronic databases were searched. 2 reviewers independently selected the articles for inclusion, and extracted information about study characteristics (sample, recruitment method, assessment and measures) and data reporting the association of workplace bullying with suicidal ideation and behaviour. 12 studies were included in the final review—8 reported estimates of a positive association between workplace bullying and suicidal ideation, and a further 4 provided descriptive information about the prevalence of suicidal ideation in targets of bullying. Only 1 non-representative cross-sectional study examined the association between workplace bullying and suicidal behaviour. The results show an absence of high-quality epidemiological studies (eg, prospective cohort studies, which controlled for workplace characteristics and baseline psychiatric morbidity). While the available literature (predominantly cross-sectional) suggests that there is a positive association between workplace bullying and suicidal ideation, the low quality of studies prevents ruling out alternative explanations. Further longitudinal, population-based research, adjusting for potential covariates (within and outside the workplace), is needed to determine the level of risk that workplace bullying independently contributes to suicidal ideation and behaviour.
- Workplace bullying
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Contributors LSL designed the study aims, conducted the data extraction and wrote the manuscript. CP undertook background research for the manuscript, conducted the data extraction and provided feedback on the final manuscript. PB designed the study aims, provided guidance and input on the analytic design, and provided feedback on the final manuscript.
Funding PB is funded by a Future Fellowship provided by the Australian Research Council (ARC) #FT13101444. LSL is funded by an Early Career Fellowship provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) #1035803.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.