People who are bullied or experience violence at work are at higher risk of developing heart and brain blood vessel problems, including heart attacks and stroke, according to a new study. The findings revealed that those who were bullied almost every day had 120 per cent higher risk of CVD. Exposure to frequent workplace violence increased the risk of cerebrovascular disease such as stroke by 36 per cent.
“If there is a causal link between bullying or violence at work and cardiovascular disease, then the removal of workplace bullying would mean we could avoid five per cent of all cardiovascular cases, and the eradication of violence at work would avoid more than three per cent of all cases” said Tianwei Xu, a postdoctoral student from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
“Workplace bullying and workplace violence are distinct social stressors at work. Only 10 to 14 per cent of those exposed to at least one type of exposure were suffering from the other at the same time,” Xu said. For the study, published in the European Heart Journal, the team examined 79,201 working men and women, aged 18 to 65, with no history of CVD.
They found that bullying at workplace occurred mostly from colleagues (79 per cent) rather than from people outside the organisation (21 per cent). However, violence or threats of violence at work originated mainly from people outside the organisation (91 per cent), than from within (9 per cent).
The study is observational and, therefore, cannot show that workplace bullying or violence cause cardiovascular problems, only that there is an association. The researchers noted their results are robust and have important implications for employers and national governments.
“It is important to prevent workplace bullying and workplace violence from happening, as they constitute major stressors for those exposed and have policies for intervening if bullying or violence occurs,” they said.