People who are bullied at work or experience workplace violence are at a higher risk of heart and brain blood vessel problems, including heart attacks and strokes, according to the largest prospective study to investigate the link, published in European Heart Journal Today is Monday).
Although this study is observational and, therefore, cannot show that bullying or violence in the workplace because cardiovascular problems, only that exists associationResearchers say their results are strong and have important implications for employers and national governments.
Ms. Tianwei Xu, a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, who led the study, said: "If there is a causal relationship between bullying or workplace violence and cardiovascular disease, eliminating bullying at work will mean we can avoid five percent of all cardiovascular cases, and eradicating workplace violence will avoid more than three percent of all cases. "
The researchers looked at data from 79,201 men and women who worked in Denmark and Sweden, aged 18 to 65 years, without a history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), who were participants in three studies that began between 1995 and 2011; the participants have been followed up since then. When they joined the study, participants were asked about bullying and violence at work and how often they experienced each. Information about the number of cases of cerebral and vascular disease and deaths was obtained from the national registry.
Ms. Xu and her colleagues also took into account other factors that could influence whether participants were affected by CVD, such as body mass index, alcohol consumption, smoking, pre-existing mental disorders and health conditions, work and work shifts.
Nine percent of participants reported being bullied at work and 13 percent reported experiencing violence or threats of workplace violence last year. After adjusting for age, sex, country of birth, marital status and education level, the researchers found that those who experienced violence or experienced violence (or threats of violence) at work had a CVD risk of 59% and 25% higher than those who people who are not exposed to bullying or violence. The more bullying or violence encountered, the greater the risk of CVD. Compared to people who do not suffer from bullying, people who reported being bullied (equivalent to being disturbed almost every day) in the last 12 months have a 120% higher risk of CVD, while those who are most often exposed to violence in the workplace have The risk is 36% higher than cerebrovascular disease (such as stroke) than those who are not exposed to violence, but there seems to be no corresponding increase in heart disease.
Ms. Xu said: "Workplace violence and workplace violence are different social stresses in the workplace. Only 10-14% of those exposed to at least one type of exposure suffer from the other at the same time. These stressful events are related to higher risk of cardiovascular disease by means of a dose response – in other words, the greater the exposure to bullying or violence, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease.
"From this study we cannot conclude that there is a causal relationship between workplace bullying or workplace violence and cardiovascular disease, but we provide empirical evidence to support such a causal relationship, especially given the plausible biological pathway between primary stress in place work and cardiovascular disease.This is further supported by the trend of dose response and strength of results in various sensitivity analyzes. Experimental research on violence and intimidation will be very unethical and our research provides the best evidence of this relationship.
"The effect of bullying and violence on the incidence of cardiovascular disease in the general population is comparable to other risk factors, such as diabetes and drinking alcohol, which further highlights the importance of workplace bullying and workplace violence in relation to prevention of cardiovascular disease.
"It is important to prevent bullying in the workplace and workplace violence to occur, because they are the main cause for those affected. It is also important to have a policy to intervene if bullying or violence occurs."
Researchers are currently investigating what mechanisms, behavior and biology, might be involved in increasing the risk of CVD in people who experience intimidation or workplace violence. They believe that high blood pressure is likely to be involved because it is known that severe stress can increase blood pressure. In addition, exposure to bullying and violence can cause anxiety and depression which, in turn, can lead to overeating and excessive alcohol consumption. Changes caused by stress on metabolism can also be involved.
Other interesting findings from this study include the fact that bullying in the workplace occurs mostly from coworkers (79%) than from people outside the organization (21%), while violence or the threat of violence in the workplace comes mainly from people outside organization (91%), rather than from within (9%). This, combined with the fact that those most frequently exposed to workplace violence are no more likely to suffer from heart disease, suggesting that workers may have received training on how to deal with the violence they encountered as part of their work and may be better prepared to deal with it and avoid long-term consequences.
Research limitations include the fact that bullying in the workplace and violence is only measured once; that this research was carried out in Scandinavian countries where the concepts of intimidation and violence in the workplace were well established, which meant that caution was needed when extrapolating these findings to other countries and cultures; and that some information, such as tobacco use other than smoking (for example, snus use), personality traits, genetic factors, and other stressors (such as marital conflicts) are not available.
In the accompanying editorial, Professor Christoph Herrmann-Lingen, director of the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the University of Göttingen Medical Center, Göttingen, Germany, warned that "findings need careful interpretation and independent replication".
He points out that a number of factors can play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease, including the environment and events in one's early life, how they deal with stress, and pre-existing psychological problems, all of which can affect the course. they behave in the workplace and respond to the situation faced there.
He wrote: "We therefore do not know to what extent the increase in CVD events is driven by objective events (which can be well prevented by workplace intervention), subjective perceptions of events, and psychobiological reactions to them (which might require efforts to deal with individual endurance) stress and coping) or pre-existing psychological conditions (which ones) own associated with an increased risk of CVD and will require early recognition, treatment, or even prevention of underlying problems). "
He concluded: "It might therefore be wise not only to recognize and solve interpersonal problems at the initial workplace but also to consider cardiovascular prevention a lifelong effort that might best start at an earlier stage of life."