Workplace Bullying and Suicidal Ideation: Findings from an Australian Longitudinal Cohort Study of Mid-Aged Workers

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 24;17(4):1448. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041448.


Workplace bullying adversely affects mental health, yet little is known about the outcomes for suicidal ideation. The current study used Australian population-based data to investigate the association between workplace bullying and suicidal ideation. The sample included 1488 employed participants aged 52-58 from wave 4 of the Personality and Total Health (PATH) Through Life Study. Workplace bullying was measured in two ways: (a) a single item asked about experiences of bullying 'currently', 'previously in the current workplace' and 'in a past workplace', and (b) 15 items asked about bullying behaviours experienced in the past 6 months. Suicidal ideation was measured using items from the Psychiatric Symptom Frequency Scale (PSF) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Psychosocial job quality, both current and prior, was adjusted for. Current and past experiences of workplace bullying were associated with increased risk of suicidal ideation. Current experiences were no longer associated after adjusting for concurrent indicators of psychosocial job stress, although a tendency for increased ideation remained. Reported prior experience of workplace bullying in a past workplace remained associated with higher odds of suicidal ideation after adjusting for prior psychosocial job stressors and excluding individuals with prior suicidal ideation. Being bullied at work is associated with increased risk of suicidal thoughts, although this occurs within the broader influence of other psychologically stressful employment conditions.

Keywords: mobbing; suicidal ideation; suicide; workplace bullying.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Bullying*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Workplace / psychology*