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Does Workplace Bullying Affect Long-Term Sickness Absence Among Coworkers?

Hansen, Åse, Marie, PhD; Grynderup, Matias, Brødsgaard, PhD; Bonde, Jens, Peter, PhD, DM; Conway, Paul, Maurice, PhD; Garde, Anne, Helene, PhD; Kaerlev, Linda, PhD; Kolstad, Henrik, A., PhD; Mikkelsen, Sigurd, PhD; Rugulies, Reiner, PhD; Thomsen, Jane, Frølund, PhD; Willert, Morten, PhD; Hogh, Annie, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2018 - Volume 60 - Issue 2 - p 132–137
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001209

Aim: To examine if non-bullied employees at work units (WUs) with workplace bullying have more long-term sickness absence (LTSA) than employees in non-bullying WUs.

Methods: We included 7229 public health employees from 302 WUs and 3158 responders to a questionnaire on working conditions and health in 2007. WUs were classified into three categories of WUs; (1) no bullying (0% bullied); (2) moderate prevalence of bullying (less than 10% bullied); and (3) high prevalence of bullying (more than or equal to 10% bullied). LTSA (more than or equal to 30 consecutive days of sickness absence) during the following 2 years was obtained by linkage to the Danish register of sickness absence compensation benefits and social transfer payments.

Results: Non-bullied coworkers in WUs, where bullying was reported had 15% to 22% more LTSA compared with non-bullying WUs.

Conclusion: Workplace bullying may be associated with LTSA in the entire WU.

Department of Public Health (Dr Hansen, Dr Grynderup, Dr Garde, Dr Rugulies); The National Research Centre for the Working Environment (Dr Hansen, Dr Garde, Dr Rugulies); Department of Neurology, Nordsjællands Hospital, Hillerød (Dr Grynderup); Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Frederiksberg and Bispebjerg Hospital (Dr Bonde, Dr Mikkelsen, Dr Thomsen); Department of Psychology (Dr Conway, Dr Rugulies, Dr Hogh) University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen; Research Unit of Clinical Epidemiology, Institute of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark (Dr Kaerlev); Center for Clinical Epidemiology, Odense University Hospital (Dr Kaerlev); Department of Occupational Medicine, Danish Ramazzini Centre, Aarhus University Hospital (Dr Kolstad, Dr Willert), Denmark.

Address correspondence to: Åse Marie Hansen, PhD, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Øster Farimagsgade 5, DK-1014 Copenhagen K, Denmark (

The study was funded by The Danish Working Environment Research Fund (Grant Numbers 20130023294 and 5–2005-09) and The Danish Council for Independent Research (Grant Number 1319-00092). Funding organs played no role in the collection of data, formulation of study hypothesis, analyses, or interpretation of findings.

Conflict of Interest: None declared.

Copyright © 2018 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine