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Workplace Bullying and Psychological Distress

A Longitudinal Multilevel Analysis Among Japanese Employees

Tsuno, Kanami, PhD, MPH; Kawachi, Ichiro, MD, PhD; Kawakami, Norito, MD, PhD; Miyashita, Kazuhisa, MD, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2018 - Volume 60 - Issue 12 - p 1067–1072
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001433

Objective: We sought to investigate the contextual effect of workplace bullying on subsequent individual psychological distress and intention to leave.

Methods: A longitudinal study was conducted among 3142 Japanese employees in the public sector. Both the baseline and follow-up questionnaires inquired about demographic and occupational characteristics, workplace bullying, psychological distress, and intention to leave.

Results: The results of three-level (individual—division—department) multilevel analyses revealed that division-level workplace bullying was associated with increased individual-level psychological distress after adjustment for individual experience of workplace bullying, while the association between individual experience of bullying and psychological distress was not statistically significant in the same model.

Conclusion: The results of the current study suggest that the presence of bullying in the workplace can have a detrimental effect on employees’ mental health even if they are not personally victimized.

Department of Hygiene, School of Medicine, Wakayama Medical University, Wakayama, Japan (Drs Tsuno, Miyashita); Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Kawachi); Department of Mental Health, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan (Dr Kawakami).

Address correspondence to: Kanami Tsuno, PhD, MPH, Department of Hygiene, School of Medicine, Wakayama Medical University, 811-1 Kimiidera, Wakayama-shi, Wakayama 641-8509, Japan (

The present study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (JSPS) Fellow 2010 to 2012 (No. 22-4839) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan. This funding had no role or involvement in the current study.

The authors have no conflicts of interest.

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