Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 45, Issue 11, pp 1037–1041 | Cite as

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

  • Giovanni NolfeEmail author
  • Claudio Petrella
  • Gemma Zontini
  • Simona Uttieri
  • Giuseppe Nolfe
Original Paper



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 workplace Psychiatric disturbances Working psychopathology Life stressors Gender 



The authors acknowledge with great appreciation the support of Prof. Paola Mancini and Dr. Simona Pacillo (Department of Statistics, University of Molise, Benevento, Italy) for the design of the statistical analysis of data.


  1. 1.
    Ferrie JE (2001) Is job insecurity harmful to health? J R Soc Med 94:71–74PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Godin I, Kittel F, Coppieters Y, Siegrist J (2005) A prospective study of cumulative job stress in relation to mental health. BMC Public Health 5:67CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Wang J (2005) Work stress as a risk factor for major depressive episode(s). Psychol Med 5:865–871CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Stansfeld S, Candy B (2006) Psychosocial work environment and mental health–a meta- analytic review. Scand J Work Environ Health 32:443–462PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Romanov K, Appelberg K, Honkasalo ML, Koskenvuo M (1996) Recent interpersonal conflict at work and psychiatric morbidity: a prospective study of 15,530 employees aged 24–64. J Psychosom Res 40(2):169–176CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kivimäki M, Virtanen M, Vartia M, Elovainio M, Vahtera J, Keltikangas-Järvinen L (2003) Workplace bullying and the risk of cardiovascular disease and depression. Occup Environ Med 60(10):779–783CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Sanderson K, Andrews G (2006) Common mental disorders in the workforce: recent findings from descriptive and social epidemiology. Can J Psychiatry 51(2):63–75PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Rousse G, Fontana L, Ouchchane L, Boisson C, Gerbaud L, Bourquet D, Perrier A, Schmitt A, Llorca PM, Chamoux A (2008) Psychopathological features of a patient population of targets of workplace bullying. Occup Med (Lond) 58(2):112–128Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Wilhelm K, Kovess V, Rios-Seidel C, Finch A (2004) Work and mental health. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 39:866–873CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kessler RC, Akiskal HS, Ames M, Birnbaum H, Greenberg P, Hirschfeld R, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Simon GE, Wang PS (2006) Prevalence and effects of mood disorders on work performances in a nationally representative sample of U.S. workers. Am J Psychiatry 163:1561–1568CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    McDaid D (2007) The economics of mental health in the workplace: what do we know and where do we go? Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc 16(4):294–298PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Paterniti S, Niedhammer I, Lang T, Consoli SM (2002) Psychosocial factors at work, personality traita and depressive symptoms. Longitudinal results from the GAZEL Study. Brit J Psychiatry 181(2):111–117Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Niedhammer I, Davide S, Degioanni S, 143 occupational physician (2006) Association between workplace bullying and depressive symptoms in the French working population. J Psychosom Res 61:251–259CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Takeuchi T, Nakao M, Yano E (2008) Symptomatology of depressive state in the workplace. A 20-year cohort study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 43(5):343–348CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Quine L (1999) Workplace bullying in NHS community trust: staff questionnaire survey. BMJ 318(7178):228–232PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Agervold M, Mikkelsen EG (2004) Relationship between bullying, psychosocial work environment and individual stress reactions. Work Stress 18(4):336–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Matthiesen SB, Einarsen S (2004) Psychiatric distress and symptoms of PTSD among victims of bullying at work. Br J Guid Counc 32(3):335–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Tehrani N (2004) Bullying: a source of chronic post traumatic stress? Br J Guid Counc 32(3):357–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Leyman H, Gustavson A (1996) Mobbing at work and the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. Eur J Work Organ Psychol 5(2):251–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Afifi M (2007) Gender differences in mental health. Singap Med J 48(5):385–391Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Virtanen M, Koskinen S, Kivimaki M, Honkonen T, Vahtera J, Ahola K, Lonnqvist J (2008) Contribution of non-work and work-related risk factors to the association between income and mental disorders in a working population: the Health 2000 Study. Occup Environ Med 65:171–178CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Amagasa T, Nakayama T, Takahashi Y (2005) Karojisatsu in Japan: characteristics of 22 cases of work-related suicide. J Occupat Health 47:157–164Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Conroy C (1989) Suicide in the workplace: incidence, victim characteristics, and external cause of death. J Occup Med 31:847–851CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    World Health Organization (2002) The world health report: 2001. Mental health: new understanding, new hope. NLM Classification: WA 540.1. WHO, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Tyssen R, Vaglum P, Gronvold NT, Ekberg O (2000) The impact of job stress and working condition on mental health problems among junior house officers (medical interns). A nationwide Norwegian prospective cohort study. Med Educ 34:374–384CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Rospenda KM, Fujishiro K, Shannon CA, Richman JA (2008) Workplace harassment, stress, and drinking behavior over time: gender differences in a national sample. Addict Behav 33(7):964–967CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Ostry AS, Radi S, Louie AM, LaMontagne AD (2006) Psychosocial and other working condition in relation to body mass index in a representative sample of Australian workers. BMC Public Health 6:53CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Lallukka T, Laaksonen M, Martikainen P, Sarlio-Lähteenkorva S, Lahelma E (2005) Psychosocial working condition and weight gain among employees. Int J Obes (Lond) 29(8):909–915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Bjorkvist K, Osterman K, Hjelt-Back M (1994) Aggression among university employees. Aggress Behav 20(3):173–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Rospenda KM, Richman JA, Wislar JS, Flaherty JA (2000) Chronicity of sexual harassment and generalized workplace abuse: effects on drinking outcomes. Addiction 95(12):1805–1820CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Shannon CA, Rospenda KM, Richman JA (2007) Workplace harassment patterning, gender, and utilization of professional service: findings from US national study. Soc Sci Med 64(6):1178–1191CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Cheng Y, Kawachi I, Coakley EH, Schwartz J, Colditz G (2000) Association between psychosocial work characteristics and health functioning in American women: prospective study. BMJ 320:1432–1436CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Leach LS, Christensen H, Mackinnon AJ, Windsor TD, Butterworth P (2008) Gender differences in depression and anxiety across the adult lifespan: the role of psychosocial mediators. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 43:983–998CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    American Psychiatric Association (1994) DSM-IV diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edn, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Leymann H (1990) Mobbing and psychological terror at workplace. Violence Vict 5(2):119–126PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Giovanni N, Petrella C, Blasi F, Zontini G, Giuseppe N (2008) Psychopathological dimension of harassment in the workplace (mobbing). Int J Ment Health 36(4):70–88Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Varhama LM, Björkqvist K (2004) Conflicts, workplace bullying and burnout problems among municipal employees. Psychol Rep 94(3 Pt 2):1116–1124Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Goodwin RD, Gotlib IH (2004) Gender differences in depression: the role of personality factors. Psychiatry Res 126:135–142CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Kendler KS, Kuhn JW, Prescott CA (2004) The interrelationship of neuroticism, sex, and stressfull life events in the prediction of episodes of major depression. Am J Psychiatry 161(4):631–636Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Nazroo JY, Edwards AC, Brown GW (1997) Gender differences in the onset of depression following a shared life events: a study of couples. Psychol Med 27:9–19CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Gater R, Tansella M, Korten A, Tiemens BG, Mavreas VG, Olatawura MO (1998) Sex differences in the prevalence and detection of depressive and anxiety disorders in general health care settings: report from the World Health Organization Collaborative Study on psychological problems in general health care. Arch Gen Psychiatry 55:405–413CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Steiner M, Dunn E, Born L (2003) Hormones and mood: from menarche to menopause and beyond. J Affect Disord 74(1):67–83CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Noble RF (2005) Depression in women. Metabolism 5(Suppl 1):49–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Deecher D, Andree TH, Sloan D, Schechter LE (2008) From menarche to menopause: exploring the underlying biology of depression in women experiencing hormonal changes. Psychoneuroendocrinology 33(1):3–17CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanni Nolfe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Claudio Petrella
    • 1
  • Gemma Zontini
    • 2
  • Simona Uttieri
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Nolfe
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Mental HealthOperative Unit 44-Naples 1NaplesItaly
  2. 2.Psychiatric Hospital Service “V. Monaldi”NaplesItaly
  3. 3.National Research Council of Italy (CNR) Institute of Cybernetics “E. Caianiello”PozzuoliItaly

Personalised recommendations