Workplace sexual harassment linked to increased risk of suicidal behavior
Workers who have been exposed to sexual harassment in their workplace are at greater risk of suicide and attempting suicide, finds a study published by The BMJ today.
The authors say their findings suggest that workplace interventions focusing on the social side of the work environment could help reduce suicide.
The "Me Too" movement has brought a lot of attention to work-related sexual harassment in recent years, and the impact it can have on businesses and society, but most importantly on individuals.
While previous research has found that sexual harassment in the workplace is linked to physical health symptoms, sickness absence, and poorer mental health, such as psychological distress, depression, and anxiety, little research has been carried out on its impact on suicidal behaviour.
The study included 85,205 men and women of working age in paid work who completed a questionnaire between 1995 and 2013 which included questions about exposure to work related sexual harassment.
Workers were asked if they had been subjected to sexual harassment in their workplace in the past 12 months either from superiors or fellow workers, or from "other people", such as patients, clients, passengers and students.
Sexual harassment was defined as "undesirable advances or offensive references to what is generally associated with sexual relations."
Any suicides or suicide attempts by these workers over an average follow up period of 13 years were identified from administrative registers.
Overall, 4.8% of the workers reported workplace sexual harassment during the previous 12 months: 1.9% of all men and 7.5% of all women. Those exposed were more likely to be younger, single, divorced, and in low paid but high strain jobs (high demands but low control), and born outside of Europe.
A total of 125 people died from suicide and 816 made a suicide attempt during the follow-up period, which translates to a rate of 0.1 suicides per 1000 person years and rate 0.8 attempted suicides per 1000 person years.