New findings suggest being bullied at work won’t just affect you emotionally, but could also have serious consequences for your health.
In 2015, not long after Soma Ghosh, now 36, started a new job as a careers advisor, she began to dread every day at the office.
A colleague consistently criticised her performance, blamed her for others’ mistakes and humiliated her. The constant bullying soon took a toll. Ghosh developed anxiety and depression, but there were also effects on her physical health, including trouble sleeping; recurring cold and flu-like symptoms; the appearance of a lump in her armpit; and pains in her fingers, hands and shoulders caused by the pressure to work overlong hours without adequate breaks.
Researchers have long known about the adverse mental health effects of workplace bullying. But only recently – thanks to studies utilising the comprehensive public health records maintained in Scandinavian countries – have they begun to uncover findings that suggest that this bullying could have serious effects on physical health, too.
A heart-stopping danger
For a 2018 paper, a group led by Tianwei Xu of the University of Copenhagen analysed data from nearly 80,000 male and female employees in Sweden and Denmark. The researchers compared the participants’ reports at baseline of whether they’d been bullied at work in the previous year, and then looked to the health records to see whether they’d developed any cardiovascular illness over the next four years.