Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 45, Issue 11, pp 1037–1041

Association between bullying at work and mental disorders: gender differences in the Italian people


    • Department of Mental HealthOperative Unit 44-Naples 1
  • Claudio Petrella
    • Department of Mental HealthOperative Unit 44-Naples 1
  • Gemma Zontini
    • Psychiatric Hospital Service “V. Monaldi”
  • Simona Uttieri
    • Department of Mental HealthOperative Unit 44-Naples 1
  • Giuseppe Nolfe
    • National Research Council of Italy (CNR) Institute of Cybernetics “E. Caianiello”
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-009-0155-9

Cite this article as:
Nolfe, G., Petrella, C., Zontini, G. et al. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol (2010) 45: 1037. doi:10.1007/s00127-009-0155-9



In the last few years the international literature has shown an increasing attention for the work as life-event stressor, for its organizational characteristics as well as for job insecurity and interpersonal conflicts.


We have studied 707 subjects who approached the Work Psychopathology Medical Centre of Naples to evaluate the DSM IV diagnoses and the degree of bullying at the workplace according to Leymann’s definition. Two groups, with high and with low severity of bullying, were compared, mainly in relation to gender differences.


The more frequent diagnoses were anxiety disorders (8.7% of the total), mood disorders (31.5%) and adjustment disorders (58.3%). The patients with higher degree of bullying were 55.7% among the subjects with anxiety disorders, 51.4% among the patients with adjustment disorders and 81.25% in the group with mood disorders. The odds of patients with severe bullying was 1.602 times higher for males than for females. Independently by the gender, the odds of patients being in the group with severe bullying were more than three times higher for subjects with mood disorders than for patients suffering from anxiety and adjustment disorders.


In the male gender, the psychiatric disturbances are more correlated to bullying at the workplace and this datum is especially linked to the gender differences found in the relationship between severity of bullying and adjustment disorders. Among female employees the psychopathological dimensions could be linked with a more multifactorial genesis in relation to their psychosocial role in the cultural context we examined (Southern Italy).


Bullying at workplacePsychiatric disturbancesWorking psychopathologyLife stressorsGender

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© Springer-Verlag 2009