Exposure to workplace bullying increases the risk of sickness absence. However, the extent and direction of this relationship for different follow-up lengths are not well established. To provide evidence regarding the direction and extent of the relationship between workplace bullying and different durations of sickness absence. We searched nine databases from their inception to 29 November 2022. Multiple independent observers screened the literature, extracted the data and used the Risk Of Bias In Non-randomised Studies of Exposure to assess the methodological quality. The overall effect sizes of odds ratio, relative risk, hazard ratio and 95% confidence intervals were calculated. Our meta-analysis demonstrated a 26% increased risk of sick leave among workers exposed to workplace bullying for all follow-up lengths (95% CI 1.18 to 1.35), even after adjusting for confounding factors. Moreover, we found a significant association between long-term sickness absence and a higher likelihood of subsequent exposure to workplace bullying, with a pooled OR of 1.63 (95% CI 1.21 to 2.04). Our study established a bidirectional relationship between workplace bullying and long-term sickness absence, highlighting that it increases the risk of sickness absence at different follow-up lengths among employees who have been bullied. Hence, organisations should be mindful of workers who resume work after prolonged absences due to illness and adopt appropriate management strategies to prevent workplace bullying.
- workplace bullying
- sickness absence
- bi-directional relationship
- systematic review
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XL, YW and QZ are joint first authors.
Contributors XL: conceptualisation; methodology; software; formal analysis; writing—original draft. YW: methodology; formal analysis; resources; writing—original draft. QZ: data curation; visualisation. JW: writing—review and editing; software. XY: software; data curation; visualisation. WY: formal analysis; supervision; validation. GW: conceptualisation; methodology; supervision; funding acquisition. YZ: writing—review and editing; project administration; funding acquisition; supervision.
Funding This work was supported by the 'XingLin Scholars' talent programme of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (grant numbers XSGG2019002 and ZRYY1904).
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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