Workplace Bullies Can Threaten the Heart

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 19, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- If you're bullied by a bad boss or co-worker, your heart may pay the price, new research shows.

Victims of on-the-job bullying or violence faced a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, the researchers found.

The new study of more than 79,000 European workers couldn't prove cause and effect. But if there is a causal link, eliminating workplace bullying "would mean we could avoid 5 percent of all cardiovascular cases," theorized study leader Tianwei Xu. She's a doctoral student at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

One expert in the United States agreed that workplace bullying is certainly unhealthy.

Even if trouble at work doesn't cause heart issues, it can "certainly exacerbate cardiac diseases," said Curtis Reisinger. He's chief of psychiatric services at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

In the new study, Xu's team tracked long-term data from more than 79,000 working adults in Denmark and Sweden, aged 18 to 65, with no prior history of heart disease.

Nine percent reported being bullied at work and 13 percent reported experiencing violence or threats of violence at work in the past year.

After adjusting for a number of factors, the researchers found that those who were bullied at work had a 59 percent higher risk of heart disease than those not exposed to bullying. People who were subjected to on-the-job violence or threats had a 25 percent higher risk versus those without such experiences.

The risks appeared to rise with the level of the threat, according to a news release from the European Society of Cardiology. Compared with those who weren't bullied, people who said they were bullied frequently (almost every day) in the past 12 months had a 120 percent higher risk of heart disease, the study authors said.

And compared with those who weren't subjected to workplace violence or threats, those most frequently affected had a 36 percent higher risk of stroke and other brain blood vessel problems, the findings showed.