Workplace Bullying Increases Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Workplace bullying increases risk of type 2 diabetes

Something that most people will acknowledge is that bullying is obviously bad and can cause further issues, particularly with mental health. But a new study has revealed that bullying in the workplace can actually increase the risk physical health.

The Scandinavian study, published in the journal Diabetologia, saw four existing population studies analysed involving 19,280 men and 26,625 women aged between 40 to 65 years. 9% of the participants were found to be exposed to workplace bullying and after almost 12 years of follow up there was found to be a 46% increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The findings were adjusted for factors that included education level, marital status, sex and age to ensure they were as accurate as possible. When the results were broken down, it was found that men were more prone to developing type 2 diabetes at 61% compared to 36% for women.

Another startling find was that being exposed to workplace violence, or simply the threat of violence, was also linked to a 26% rise in the risk of type 2 diabetes. This was found after 12% of the participants reported experiencing either violence or being threatened with violence in the initial preceding 12 months. After a mean follow up of 11.4 years, 980 had developed diabetes.

Bullying and Violence Not The Same

The study notes that bullying and violence are both negative but should be viewed differently from each other and as such, be viewed as two distinct social stressors. Violence, by its very nature, obviously involves physical acts that can involve pushing, hitting and kicking or simply being threatened by it. It was also found to be caused mostly by people outside the initial workplace, such as by clients and patients.

Bullying on the other hand is a more psychological issue as it often involves lots of micro-aggressions that include criticisms, isolation, humiliation and more. This was often found to be perpetrated by the internal circle in the workplace such as colleagues and managers.

As such, the two can cause differing emotions, for example violence could cause emotions strongly related to fear whereas bullying could perhaps cause feelings such as insecurity and shame. A reason suggested by the study is that stress hormones could be a causal pathway that links bullying, violence and diabetes.

Metabolic changes and obesity could also potentially be a mechanism, with stress responses altering the regulation of appetite or inducing comfort eating, increasing the risk of developing diabetes.

What Can Employers Do?

Employers should find it incredibly important to create a comfortable working environment for all, which includes preventing bullying when possible. Ensure that any anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies are kept up to date and communicated out to the business as a whole.

Managers should also be trained to identify the signs of bullying as well as being able to either prevent it from happening or how to deal with bullying if it is happening. At the same time, in the cases of managers bullying people working under them, there should be clear ways for employees to bring up cases against their managers through HR.

It should also be important to ensure that any complaints of bullying are dealt with quickly, efficiently and most importantly fairly. For more information on workplace bullying, we have provided links below that may be relevant along with a link for more information regarding diabetes:

Workplace Bullying and Harassment – Gov UK:



 Diabetes UK:

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Sarah Jubb

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