Workplace Bullying and Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis on Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Data

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 25;10(8):e0135225. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135225. eCollection 2015.


Background: A growing body of research has confirmed that workplace bullying is a source of distress and poor mental health. Here we summarize the cross-sectional and longitudinal literature on these associations.

Methods: Systematic review and meta-analyses on the relation between workplace bullying and mental health.

Results: The cross-sectional data (65 effect sizes, N = 115.783) showed positive associations between workplace bullying and symptoms of depression (r = .28, 95% CI = .23-.34), anxiety (r = .34, 95% CI = .29-.40) and stress-related psychological complaints (r = .37, 95% CI = .30-.44). Pooling the literature that investigated longitudinal relationships (26 effect sizes, N = 54.450) showed that workplace bullying was related to mental health complaints over time (r = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.13-0.21). Interestingly, baseline mental health problems were associated with subsequent exposure to workplace bullying (r = 0.18, 95% CI = 0.10-0.27; 11 effect sizes, N = 27.028).

Limitations: All data were self-reported, raising the possibility of reporting- and response set bias.

Conclusions: Workplace bullying is consistently, and in a bi-directional manner, associated with reduced mental health. This may call for intervention strategies against bullying at work.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bullying*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Publication Bias
  • Workplace / psychology*

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.