Are employees in Hastings using medication to cope with the stress and anxiety from work-placed bullying?

Researchers from the University of Helsinki have found that employees who witness bullying in the workplace, or are victims of bullying, are more likely to be on medication, such as antidepressants, tranquilisers or sleeping pills.  Are employees in East Sussex who are also experiencing stress and depression as a result of work-place bullying having to turn to medication?

According to an article carried in BMJOpen (, bullying in the workplace – both as a personal victim or a witness – is associated with mental health problems among staff. The researchers explained that nobody can be sure whether that translates into requiring drug treatment. No study to date has tried to differentiate between witnessing bullying, being at the receiving end of it, and a link to being prescribed medication.

Previous studies have looked at the effect workplace bullying may have on employees. A study carried out by researchers from the University of Manitoba found that workplace bullying inflicts more harm on employees than does sexual harassment.

The research team asked 6,606 Finnish municipal employees who worked for the City of Helsinki, the country’s largest employer, about their encounters with bullying in the workplace, either as witnesses or victims, between 2000 and 2002.

The authors gathered and analyzed data from the National Registry on the purchases of prescribed medication; they were tracked for three years before the survey started and for five years after it was completed.

All the municipal employees who took part in the survey were part of the Helsinki Health Study and were aged from 40 to 60 years.

The researchers discovered that:

  • 5% of all the employees said they were currently victims of bullying
  • 18% of females and 12% of males reported having been bullied at some time, either in their current or previous place of employment
  • Approximately half of them said they had witnessed workplace bullying occasionally or more often
  • Workplace bullying was linked to being prescribed drugs in both sexes
  • Women who had been bullied at work were 50% more likely to be prescribed medication
  • Men were twice as likely to be prescribed a medication if they had been victims of workplace bullying
  • Women who had witnessed workplace bullying had a 53% higher risk of being prescribed medication
  • Men who had witnessed bullying in the workplace were nearly twice as likely to be prescribed medication

These statistics were calculated after the researchers had taken into account factors which could distort the results, such as having been prescribed such medications before, being bullied during childhood, bodyweight, and socioeconomic status.

The researchers concluded: ”Our findings highlight the significance of workplace bullying to subsequent psychotropic medication reflecting medically confirmed mental problems. Tackling workplace bullying likely helps prevent mental problems among employees.”

The stress, anxiety or depression created by bullying in the workplace are among the areas where members of the East Sussex Counsellors group would be able to work with clients to help them deal with the issues which result.


added at 12:12am on 20th December 2012

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