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.
2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.