City Research Online

Prevalence and nature of workplace bullying and harassment and associations with mental health conditions in England: a cross-sectional probability sample survey

Bunce, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-7244-0561, Hashemi, L. ORCID: 0000-0001-6449-3834, Clark, C. , Stansfeld, S., Myers, C-A. & McManus, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-2711-0819 (2024). Prevalence and nature of workplace bullying and harassment and associations with mental health conditions in England: a cross-sectional probability sample survey. BMC Public Health, 24(1), article number 1147. doi: 10.1186/s12889-024-18614-7


Evidence on workplace bullying and harassment (WBH) in the UK has not used probability-sample surveys with robust mental health assessments. This study aimed to profile the prevalence and nature of WBH in England, identify inequalities in exposure, and quantify adjusted associations with mental health.

Data were from the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, a cross-sectional probability-sample survey of the household population in England. Criteria for inclusion in the secondary analysis were being aged 16–70 years and in paid work in the past month (n = 3838). Common mental disorders (CMDs) were assessed using the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised and mental wellbeing using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. Analyses were weighted. We examined associations between past-year WBH and current CMD using multivariable regression modelling, adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Interaction terms tested for gender differences in associations. The study received ethical approval (ETH21220–299).

One in ten employees (10.6%, n = 444/3838) reported past-year experience of WBH, with rates higher in women (12.2%, n = 284/2189), those of mixed, multiple, and other ethnicity (21.0%, n = 15/92), and people in debt (15.2%, n = 50/281) or living in cold homes (14.6%, n = 42/234). Most commonly identified perpetrators of WBH were line managers (53.6%, n = 244/444) or colleagues (42.8%, n = 194/444). Excessive criticism (49.3%, n = 212/444), verbal abuse (42.6%, n = 187/444), and humiliation (31.4%, n = 142/444) were the most common types. WBH was associated with all indicators of poor mental health, including CMD (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.65, 95% CI 2.02–3.49), and 11 of 14 mental wellbeing indicators, including lower levels of confidence (aOR 0.57, 0.46–0.72) and closeness to others (aOR 0.57, 0.46–0.72). Patterns of association between WBH and mental health were similar in men and women.

These findings reinforce a need for more cohesive UK legislation against WBH; guidance on recognition of bullying behaviours for employees, managers, and human resources, focusing on prevention and early intervention, and increased awareness of the impact of WBH on mental health among health service practitioners. Limitations include reliance on cross-sectional data collected before pandemic-related and other changes in workplace practices. Longitudinal data are needed to improve evidence on causality and the longevity of mental health impacts.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2024. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Workplace, Bullying, Harassment, Mental health, Mental wellbeing, Common mental disorder, Probability survey, Inequalities
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Violence and Society Centre
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of s12889-024-18614-7.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login