Being a victim of workplace bullying increases the chances of employees being prescribed antidepressants, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers, according to new research. The new study also found that just witnessing workplace bullying heightens the use of such prescription drugs.
For the study, researchers asked 6,606 employees working for the City of Helsinki in Finland — the largest employer in the country — about their experiences of workplace bullying between 2000 and 2002. All were between the ages of 40 and 60 and were part of the Helsinki Health Study.
The researchers then tracked national registry data on purchases of prescribed “psychoactive” drugs, including antidepressants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills, for three years before the survey and for five years afterwards.
One in 20 employees told the researchers they were currently being bullied. Additionally, one in five (18 percent) women and around one in eight men (12 percent) said they had been bullied before, either in the same job or in a previous job with another employer.
Around half the respondents said that they had witnessed bullying in the workplace at least occasionally, while around one in 10 said they had witnessed it often, the researchers report.
The findings showed that workplace bullying was associated with subsequent prescriptions for psychoactive drugs in both men and women.
Women were around 50 percent more likely to have a prescription for these drugs, while men were around twice as likely to do so if they had been bullied at work.
Witnessing workplace bullying had a similar impact, according to the researchers. Women were 53 percent more likely to be prescribed a psychoactive drug, while men were almost twice as likely to receive a prescription.
Between one in 10 and one in seven people claim to have been bullied at work in Finland, said the researchers, who conclude: “Workplace bullying needs to be tackled proactively in an effective way to prevent its adverse consequences for mental health.”
The study was published in BMJ Open.
Source: BMJ-British Medical Journal