Study: Bullying victims nine times more likely to suffer from depression

Results of Danish study not surprising for experts

According to new Danish research published in the scientific periodical Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the risk of suffering from depression is increased by a factor of nine among those who are the victims of workplace bullying.

Maria Gullander, a PhD in public health and epidemiology from the University of Copenhagen and the lead author of the paper, told the science publication that the study sent a clear message.

“We need to take this seriously,” she said. “Our study shows that one of the consequences of bullying can be depression.”

Poul Videbech, a professor in psychiatry at Aarhus University, agrees with the findings. “It is an interesting and important result. I can recognise it from clinical practice,” he said.

“We know that bullying affects one’s self-confidence and self-esteem. So it is easily imaginable that bullying pushes towards depression and maybe triggers it or makes it worse than it otherwise would have been.”

The chicken or the egg?
The study is the biggest of its kind to date and involved 5,485 people in employment being interviewed three times at two-and-a-half-year intervals. Each time the participants were asked questions to determine if they were being bullied and whether they were suffering from depression.

Extra interviews were conducted with 1,481 of the participants: half of whom were the victims of bullying and showed signs of depression or anxiety while the rest were selected randomly.

Gullander explains that despite the strength of the results, it is still difficult to say if bullying leads to depression or whether depression increases the perception of being bullied.

“The problem is that we still can’t say anything conclusively about the extent to which your depressive symptoms make you more vulnerable to negative relations,” she said.