Deakin University

File(s) under permanent embargo

Why it's important for it to stop: Examining the mental health correlates of bullying and ill-treatment at work in a cohort study

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 03:22 authored by P Butterworth, LS Leach, KM Kiely
Objective: There is limited Australian information on the prevalence and mental health consequences of bullying and ill-treatment at work. The aims of this study were to use data from an ongoing Australian longitudinal cohort study to (1) compare different measures of workplace bullying, (2) estimate the prevalence of bullying and ill-treatment at work, (3) evaluate whether workplace bullying is distinct from other adverse work characteristics and (4) examine the unique contribution of workplace bullying to common mental disorders in mid-life. Method: The sample comprised 1466 participants (52% women) aged 52-58 from wave four of the Personality and Total Health (PATH) through Life study. Workplace bullying was assessed by a single item of self-labelling measure of bullying and a 15-item scale of bullying-related behaviours experienced in the past 6 months. Factor analysis the identified underlying factor structure of the behavioural bullying scale. Results: Current bullying was reported by 7.0% of respondents, while 46.4% of respondents reported that they had been bullied at some point in their working life. Person-related and work-related bullying behaviours were more common than violence and intimidation. The multi-dimensional scale of bullying behaviours had greater concordance with a single item of self-labelled bullying (Area Under the Curve = 0.88) than other adverse work characteristics (all Area Under the Curves < 0.67). Self-labelled bullying and scales reflecting person-related and work-related bullying were independent predictors of depression and/or anxiety. Conclusion: This study provides unique information on the prevalence and mental health impacts of workplace bullying and ill-treatment in Australia. Workplace bullying is a relatively common experience, and is associated with increased risk of depression and anxiety. Greater attention to identifying and preventing bullying and ill-treatment in the workplace is warranted.



Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry






London, Eng.







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal




SAGE Publications