Workplace Bullying and Long-Term Sickness Absence-A Five-Year Follow-Up Study of 2476 Employees Aged 31 to 60 Years in Germany

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OBJECTIVES: The aim was to investigate workplace bullying as a risk factor for five-year occurrence of long-term sickness absence (LTSA) in a representative cohort of employees in Germany.

METHODS: In the German Study on Mental Health at Work (S-MGA) ( n = 2476), episodes of long-term sickness absence (LTSA) between baseline and follow-up were assessed in the follow-up interview. Workplace bullying was measured in the baseline interview using a hybrid approach, which combines the behavioural experience and self-labelling methods. Through binomial regressions, the association of baseline level of workplace bullying with first-episode LTSA during follow-up was estimated, adjusting for baseline age, gender, occupational level, smoking status and physical demands at work.

RESULTS: Severe bullying heightened the risk for LTSA by approximately 50% (Rate ratio-RR: 1.48, 95% Confidence interval-CI: 1.05; 2.19), while occasional bullying heightened the risk by 15% (RR: 1.15, CI: 0.85; 1.55). When excluding LTSA events occurring in the first 2 years, the associations between bullying and LTSA increased by approximately one third.

CONCLUSIONS: Workplace bullying seems to be a risk factor for LTSA even when controlling for occupational level, smoking and physical demands at work and when taking possible reverse causality into account. We suggest to investigate effects of LTSA in more settings, to distinguish between occasional and severe bullying and employ longer follow-up intervals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7193
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number12
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2022

    Research areas

  • Bullying, Follow-Up Studies, Germany/epidemiology, Humans, Occupational Stress, Sick Leave, Workplace/psychology

ID: 317948583