One-year prospective study on the effect of workplace bullying on long-term sickness absence

J Nurs Manag. 2011 Sep;19(6):752-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2010.01179.x. Epub 2011 May 9.


Aims: To examine the effect of workplace bullying on long-term sickness absence using a prospective design.

Background: Although bullying has been identified as a serious problem in the health care sector, little attention has been given to the possible effect of workplace bullying on long-term sickness absence and its implications.

Methods: The sample consisted of 9949 employees (78.1% response rate) working in the elderly-care sector in 36 Danish municipalities. Long-term sickness absence was measured by linking a survey on work and health to the national register on social transfer payments.

Results: Among the 1171 employees that were bullied at work in the past 12 months, 1.8% were frequently bullied and 7.3% were occasionally bullied. The risk of long-term sickness absence was higher for those frequently bullied even after adjusting for psychosocial work characteristics [rate ratio (RR) = 1.92, confidence interval (CI): 1.29-2.84; P < 0.05].

Conclusion: This is the first prospective study that explored the effect of both frequent and occasional bullying on long-term sickness absence among health care employees. The effect of frequent bullying on long-term sickness absence was independent of the psychosocial work characteristics.

Implications for nursing management: Workplace bullying might impact negatively the quality of care and patients safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bullying*
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Health Services for the Aged / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sick Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • Workplace / psychology
  • Young Adult