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Exposure to Workplace Bullying and Risk of Depression

Gullander, Maria PhD; Hogh, Annie Prof; Hansen, Åse Marie Prof; Persson, Roger PhD; Rugulies, Reiner Prof; Kolstad, Henrik Albert Prof; Thomsen, Jane Frølund PhD; Willert, Morten Veis PhD; Grynderup, Matias PhD; Mors, Ole Prof; Bonde, Jens Peter Prof

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2014 - Volume 56 - Issue 12 - p 1258–1265
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000339
Original Articles

Objective: We examined the prospective association between self-labeled and witness-reported bullying and the risk of newly onset of depression.

Methods: Employees were recruited from two cohorts of 3196 and 2002 employees, respectively. Participants received a questionnaire at baseline in 2006 to 2007 with follow-up in 2008 to 2009 and 2011. New cases of depression were diagnosed in the follow-up using Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry interviews and the Major Depression Inventory questionnaire.

Results: We identified 147 new cases of depression. The odds ratio for newly onset depression among participants reporting bullying occasionally was 2.17 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.11 to 4.23) and among frequently bullied 9.63 (95% CI: 3.42 to 27.1). There was no association between percentage witnessing bullying and newly onset depression.

Conclusions: Frequent self-labeled bullying predicts development of depression but a work environment with high proportion of employees witnessing bullying does not.

From the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Dr Gullander, Dr Thomsen, Prof Bonde), Bispebjerg University Hospital, Bispebjerg Bakke, Copenhagen NV; Department of Psychology (Prof Hogh), Copenhagen University, Øster Farimagsgade, København K, Denmark, Department of Public Health (Prof Hansen), Copenhagen University Øster Farimagsgade, København K, and The National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Lersø Parkallé, Copenhagen Ø; The National Research Centre for the Working Environment (Dr Persson), Lersø Parkallé, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark; and Department of Psychology (Dr Persson), University of Lund Allhelgona Kyrkogata, Lund, Sweden; The National Research Centre for the Working Environment (Prof Rugulies), Lersø Parkallé, Copenhagen Ø; Department of Occupational Medicine (Prof Kolstad, Dr Willert, and Dr Grynderup), Danish Ramazzini Centre, Aarhus University Hospital, Nørrebrogade, Aarhus C; and Research Department P (Prof Mors), Aarhus University Hospital, Skovagervej, Risskov, Denmark.

Address correspondence to: Maria Gullander, PhD, Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, Gate 33, 2400, Copenhagen NV, Denmark (

This study was funded by Danish Working Environment Research Fond (grant number: 20100019956). Conflicts of interest: None.

Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine