Health and Wellness

Harassment Plagues U.S. Workplaces

A new university study finds that workplace harassment is directly tied to physical and psychological problems experienced by victims, such as stress, loss of sleep, depression, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Workplace Harassment and Morbidity Among US Adults also found that victims were more likely to be female, obese, multiracial, and separated or divorced. The report is based on an analysis of 17,500 individuals who participated in a 2010 national health survey.

Lead author Jagdish Khubchandani of Ball State University said the results suggest American workers are being exposed to harassment, and that their health is suffering. “Harassment or bullying suffered by American employees is severe and extremely costly for employers across the country. Harassment harms victims, witnesses, and organizations where such interactions occur,” he said.

The research found that, over a 12-month period:

  • About 8% of respondents said they were threatened, harassed, or bullied at work.
  • Those reporting higher rates of harassment include hourly workers, those working for state and local governments, multiple jobholders, night-shift workers, and those working non-regular schedules.
  • Female victims reported higher rates of psychosocial distress, smoking, and pain disorders like migraines.

Khubchandani said that despite heightened awareness of the issues, American employers have a long way to go to eliminate such behaviors. He said harassment could be reduced by organizations if they were willing to accept the prevalence of the problem and acknowledge the high costs for employees and employers. Interventions should be comprehensive, including practices and policies to protect employees at risk, and protocols to assist those who are victimized.