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Workplace Bullying Common, Could Lead to Medication Use

Reported by Dr. Jennifer Austin:

If you've ever felt bullied at work, you're not alone. A new study suggests workplace bullying is common, and so is the need for medical intervention.

The survey-based study of more than 6,000 Finns found that one in eight men and one in five women reported being bullied at work. And self-reported bullying victims were more likely to use of antidepressants, sleeping pills and sedatives.

"A potentially unexpected finding is that the results were somewhat stronger for men than women," study author Dr. Tea Lalluka of the University of Hilsinki said, explaining that bullied men were slightly more likely to use medications than bullied women.

The study was published Thursday in the journal BMJ.

Even witnessing bullying can have health effects, according to the study. Men and women who observed workplace bullying were one and a half to two times as likely to need similar medications, reflecting true, medically confirmed mental problems.

"We've all seen it go on," said Dr. Nadine Kaslow, vice chair of psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, who was not involved with the study. "It's that bystander effect; nobody wants to do anything about it."

The study was unable to examine the length or intensity of bullying among surveyed employees. But experts say preventing workplace bullying might help prevent serious mental health problems.

"There are employee assistance programs and wellness programs available to people," Kaslow said. "I would encourage people to take advantage of those. Get support - social support, self care, exercise, eat well - whatever it is, make connections with people at work."

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