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24.07.2019 | Original Article | Ausgabe 1/2020

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 1/2020

Workplace bullying, mental distress, and sickness absence: the protective role of social support

Zeitschrift:
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health > Ausgabe 1/2020
Autoren:
Morten Birkeland Nielsen, Jan Olav Christensen, Live Bakke Finne, Stein Knardahl
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Abstract

Purpose

This study examined the protective effects of supervisor, colleague, and non-work-related social support on the associations between workplace bullying, mental distress, and medically certified sickness absence. We hypothesized that social support moderated the direct association between workplace bullying and mental distress as well as the indirect association between bullying and sickness absence through mental distress. We also hypothesized that the protective effects of social support were stronger among women than among men.

Methods

A sample of 10,627 employees was recruited from 96 Norwegian organizations. Workplace bullying, mental distress, and social support were assessed through a questionnaire survey and responses were linked to official registry data on medically certified sickness absence for the year following the survey assessment.

Results

The results showed that all three investigated sources of social support moderated the direct association between workplace bullying and mental distress. Supervisor support moderated the indirect association between workplace bullying and sickness absence through mental distress among both male and female respondents, whereas colleague support moderated this indirect association among women only. Non-work-related support had no protective effect on the indirect association.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that social support, and especially supervisor support, is beneficial with regard to reducing the negative impact of workplace bullying on health and work ability of those exposed. Organizations should, therefore, include social support in interventions targeting bullying.

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