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Sexual and non-sexual forms of gender harassment: a persistent problem in the world of work
  1. Tom Sterud,
  2. Live Bakke Finne
  1. National Institute of Occupational Health (STAMI), Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tom Sterud, National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway; tom.sterud{at}

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Since it was recognised as a larger sociolegal phenomenon in the 1970s, a growing body of research suggests that sexual harassment at work, defined as unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of being intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive, has widespread negative consequences for employees, organisations and society at large.1 2 Because sexual harassment disproportionately affects women, occupational health research has focused on this specific facet of gender harassment and its impact on women’s well-being and health,3 while few studies have quantified the possible negative impact of sexual harassment directed at men.2 Furthermore, recent definitions and research offer greater recognition of various forms of gender-based harassment not limited to sexuality.2 4

Sexual and non-sexual forms of gender harassment in the Swedish working population

In this issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Blindow and coworkers5 provide a methodologically sound study that addresses some of the mentioned shortcomings in the literature. Recognising the larger issue of gender harassment at work, the study defines gender-based sexual harassment (ie, unwanted advances and offensive remarks of a sexual nature) and non-sexual harassment (ie, non-sexualising sexist offences and expressions of disrespect that the affected perceived as based on their gender) as two conceptually different stressors that can have a bearing on the risk of developing a mental disorder among both women and men.

Importantly, from an occupational health perspective, the available evidence to support the inference of a possible causal association between different aspects of gender harassment and mental health is limited; with …

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  • Contributors TS conceived and drafted this comment with feedback from LBF. Both authors contributed to the final draft.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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