Table 1

Studies reporting an association between workplace bullying and SI, and behaviours

Author, year, countrySample size and recruitment methodAge mean (SD)
Female (%)
Workplace bullying measureSuicide measureEstimate of associationFindingsQuality indicators
Sterud et al (2008), Norway311286 (RR 41%) ambulance personnel36.8 (9.3)
Single item, past 12 months, frequency (never to often)Ideation—Paykel's Suicidal Feelings in the General Population (2 items used)AOR lifetime ideation (1.0–2.7) p<.05; in past year ideation/thoughts AOR 1.5 (0.8–2.8, NS)Bullying was significantly associated with lifetime, but not past year SI (postadjustment).Association: ✓
Adjustment: ✓a
Representative: ✓
Longitudinal: ×
Balducci et al (2009), Italy36107 (RR NR), workers contacting mental health services about mobbing situation; perceived targets42.7 (9.2)
NAQ, past 6 months, frequency (never to daily)Mixed ideation and behaviour—SPS, 6-item MMPI-2 ‘suicide risk scale’ (summed score)r=.30, p<0.01Frequency of bullying in past 6 months was positively correlated with current SI/behaviour.Association: ✓
Adjustment: ×
Representative: ×
Longitudinal: ×
Lac et al (2012), France*2969 (RR NR): 41 targets of workplace bullying referred to health clinic; 28 healthy control group46.3 (8.5)
Leymann Inventory of Psychological Terror, past 6 months, frequency (at least once a week)Ideation and attempts—self-report items (details NR)Bullied group with more ideation. (p<0.0001)
Bullied group with more attempts.
Bullied group: 66% ideation and 7% attempts. Control group: 0% ideation and 0% attemptsAssociation: ✓
Adjustment: ×
Representative: ×
Longitudinal: ×
Soares (2012), Canada35Study 1 (S1): 613 (RR 32%) health professionals
Study 2 (S2): 469 (RR 32%) engineers
40 (NR)
44 (NR)
Leymann Inventory of Psychological Terror. 4 groups of workplace bullying: never, current, past 12 months, witnessIdeation—single item from Beck Depression InventoryDuration of bullying and SI;
S1: r=0.13, p<0.001
S2: r=0.19, p<0.001
Frequency of bullying and SI
S1: r=0.19, p<0.001
S2:r=0.20, p<0.001
‘Bullied currently’ or ‘in the past 12 months’ had significantly higher scores on SI than those ‘never bullied’; Higher SI scores among those bullied by a superior or multiple people.Association: ✓
Adjustment: ×
Representative: ✓
Longitudinal: ×
Romeo et al (2013), Italy3948 (RR NR), targets of workplace bullying, longitudinal follow-up (T2) at 12 months or more (mean 22 months)43.3 (NR)
Self-report and clinician confirmed
T2: single item: change in bullying situation
Mixed ideation and behaviour—SPS, 6-item MMPI-2 ‘suicide risk scale’ (summed score)(t(25)=3.34, p<0.01);
(t(25)=1.23, NS)
Improvement in bullying associated with reduction in ideation/behaviour.
No change in bullying associated with no change in SI/behaviour
Association: ✓
Adjustment: ×
Representative: ×
Longitudinal: ✓
Nielsen et al (2015), Norway181846 (RR 57%), employees from national register, longitudinal follow-up at 2 and 5 years44.3 (NR)
Self-report single item, past 6 months, frequency (never to several times a week)Ideation—self-report single item from Hopkins Symptoms Checklist, over past week and severity (‘not at all’ to ‘extreme’)T1: Spearman r=0.12, p<0.001; T2 Spearman r=0.10, p<0.001; T3: Spearman r=0.09, p<0.001
AOR=2.05; CI=1.08, 3.89; p<0.05
Workplace bullying correlated with current SI and 2 or 5 years later.
Bullied workers twice as likely to report SI at later time point.
Association: ✓
Adjustment: ✓ b
Representative: ✓
Longitudinal: ✓
Nielsen et al (2016), Norway*301939 (RR 57%) employees from national register, longitudinal follow-up at 2 and 5 years46.5 (NR)
NAQ (person-related, work-related, physical-related bullying). Past 6 months, frequency (never to daily)Ideation—self-report single item from Hopkins Symptoms Checklist, over past week and severity (‘not at all’ to ‘extreme’)T2: person-related AOR=.84. Work-related AOR=1.18. Physical intimidation AOR=10.68 (p<0.001).
T3: person-related AOR=.93. Work-related AOR=.96. Physical intimidation AOR=6.41 (p<0.01)
Only physical intimidation predicted SI at T2 and T3, after adjusting for covariates.Association: ✓
Adjustment: ✓ c
Representative: ✓
Longitudinal: ✓
Milner et al (2016), Australia32932 (RR 71%) employees, nationally representative sampleMedian 35–44
Self-report 6-item scale, frequency (never to daily)Ideation—self-report 4 items (yes/no)AOR=1.94, CI=1.50–2.50; p<0.001Workplace bullying was significantly associated with SI (postadjustment)Association: ✓
Adjustment: ✓ d
Representative: ✓ Longitudinal: ×
  • Lac sample from same pool as Brousse (in table 2).

  • *Both Nielsen et al18 ,30 studies used the same sample. Covariates adjusted for: (a) gender, age, marital status, personality measure of susceptibility to paranoia (reality weakness); (b) gender, age, change in job or workplace; (c) age, gender, baseline SI, shared variance of the indicators of bullying behaviour (person-related, work-related, physically related bullying behaviours); (d) gender, age, occupational skill level, psychosocial job stressors (supervisor support, job control, job demands, job insecurity).

  • AOR, adjusted OR; RR, response rate; NAQ, Negative Acts Questionnaire; NR, not reported; NS, not significant; R, correlation; SI, suicidal ideation; SPS, Suicidal Potential Scale; T, time; MMPI, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.