Acts of offensive behaviour and risk of long-term sickness absence in the Danish elder-care services: a prospective analysis of register-based outcomes

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2012 May;85(4):381-7. doi: 10.1007/s00420-011-0680-1. Epub 2011 Jul 19.


Purpose: To investigate associations between acts of offensive behaviour (threats, violence, bullying, and unwanted sexual attention) and risk of long-term sickness absence for eight or more consecutive weeks among female staff in the Danish elder-care services.

Methods: These associations were investigated using Cox regression analysis. Data consisted of a merger between Danish survey data collected among 9,520 female employees in the Danish elder-care services and register data on sickness absence compensation.

Results: Compared to unexposed employees, employees frequently exposed to threats (HR = 1.52, 95% CI:1.11-2.07), violence (HR = 1.54, 95% CI:1.06-2.25), and bullying (HR = 2.33, 95% CI:1.55-3.51) had significantly increased risk of long-term sickness absence when adjusting for age, job function, tenure, BMI, smoking status, and psychosocial work conditions. When mutually adjusting for the four types of offensive behaviours, only bullying remained significantly associated with risk of long-term sickness absence (HR = 2.26, 95% CI: 1.50-3.42). No significant associations were found between unwanted sexual attention and risk for long-term sickness absence.

Conclusions: Results indicate that prevention of threats, violence, and bullying may contribute to reduced sickness absence among elder-care staff. The results furthermore suggest that work organizations must be attentive on how to handle and prevent acts of offensive behaviour and support targets of offensive behaviours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Bullying*
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*