BMJ Open 2:e001660 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001660
  • Epidemiology
    • Research

Workplace bullying and subsequent psychotropic medication: a cohort study with register linkages

Press Release
  1. Eero Lahelma1
  1. 1Hjelt Institute, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tea Lallukka; tea.lallukka{at}
  • Received 16 June 2012
  • Accepted 11 October 2012
  • Published 12 December 2012


Objectives We aimed to examine longitudinally whether workplace bullying was associated with subsequent psychotropic medication among women and men.

Design A cohort study.

Setting Helsinki, Finland.

Participants Employees of the City of Helsinki, Finland (n=6606, 80% women), 40–60 years at baseline in 2000–2002, and a register-based follow-up on medication.

Primary and secondary outcome measures Workplace bullying comprised questions about current and earlier bullying as well as observing bullying. The Finnish Social Insurance Institution's register data on purchases of prescribed reimbursed psychotropic medication were linked with the survey data. All psychotropic medication 3 years prior to and 5 years after the baseline survey was included. Covariates included age, prior psychotropic medication, childhood bullying, occupational class, and body mass index. Cox proportional hazard models (HR, 95% CI) were fitted and days until the first purchase of prescribed psychotropic medication after baseline were used as the time axis.

Results Workplace bullying was associated with subsequent psychotropic medication after adjusting for age and prior medication among both women (HR 1.51, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.93) and men (HR 2.15, 95% CI 1.36 to 3.41). Also observing bullying was associated with subsequent psychotropic medication among women (HR 1.53, 95% CI 1.25 to 1.88) and men (HR 1.92, 95% CI 1.23 to 2.99). The associations only modestly attenuated after full adjustment.

Conclusions Our findings highlight the significance of workplace bullying to subsequent psychotropic medication reflecting medically confirmed mental problems. Tackling workplace bullying likely helps prevent mental problems among employees.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

blog comments powered by Disqus