Workplace bullying and psychological distress of employees across socioeconomic strata: A cross-sectional study

Chan Caryn Mei Hsien, Jyh Eiin Wong, Lena Lay Ling Yeap, Lei Hum Wee, Nor Aini Jamil @ A. Wahab, Yogarabindranath Swarna Nantha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: 1Little is known of the extent of workplace bullying in Malaysia, despite its growing recognition worldwide as a serious public health issue in the workplace. Workplace bullying is linked to stress-related health issues, as well as socioeconomic consequences which may include absenteeism due to sick days and unemployment. We sought to examine the prevalence of workplace bullying and its association with socioeconomic factors and psychological distress in a large observational study of Malaysian employees. Methods: This study employed cross-sectional, self-reported survey methodology. We used the 6-item Kessler screening scale (K6) to assess psychological distress (cutoff score ≥ 13, range 0-24, with higher scores indicating greater psychological distress). Participants self-reported their perceptions of whether they had been bullied at work and how frequently this occurred. A multivariate logistic regression was conducted with ever bullying and never bullying as dichotomous categories. Results: There were a total of 5235 participants (62.3% female). Participant ages ranged from 18 to 85, mean ± standard deviation (M ± SD): 33.88 ± 8.83. A total of 2045 (39.1%) participants reported ever being bullied. Of these, 731 (14.0%) reported being subject to at least occasional bullying, while another 194 (3.7%) reported it as a common occurrence. Across all income strata, mean scores for psychological distress were significantly higher for ever bullied employees (M ± SD: 8.69 ± 4.83) compared to those never bullied (M ± SD: 5.75 ± 4.49). Regression analysis indicated significant associations (p < 0.001) between workplace bullying with being female (Adjusted OR (aOR) = 1.27, 95% CI 1.12-1.44), higher individual income levels of between RM4,000 to RM7,999 (aOR =1.24, 95% CI 1.06-1.45) and RM8,000 and above (aOR = 1.31, 95% CI 1.10-1.56), and psychological distress (aOR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.13-1.16). Conclusions: More than one in three employees reported having experienced workplace bullying, which was found to be specifically associated with being female, drawing a higher income, and greater psychological distress. In general, low individual income was associated with greater psychological distress. However, higher income employees were far more likely to report experiencing workplace bullying. Findings from this study offer relevant insight into the associations between socioeconomic status and psychological distress in workplace bullying.

Original languageEnglish
Article number608
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2019

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Bullying
Workplace
Cross-Sectional Studies
Psychology
Absenteeism
Sick Leave
Unemployment
Malaysia
Social Class

Keywords

  • Employee health
  • K6
  • Mental health
  • Psychological distress
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Vulnerable populations
  • Workplace bullying

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

Workplace bullying and psychological distress of employees across socioeconomic strata : A cross-sectional study. / Caryn Mei Hsien, Chan; Wong, Jyh Eiin; Yeap, Lena Lay Ling; Wee, Lei Hum; Jamil @ A. Wahab, Nor Aini; Swarna Nantha, Yogarabindranath.

In: BMC Public Health, Vol. 19, 608, 13.06.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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abstract = "Background: 1Little is known of the extent of workplace bullying in Malaysia, despite its growing recognition worldwide as a serious public health issue in the workplace. Workplace bullying is linked to stress-related health issues, as well as socioeconomic consequences which may include absenteeism due to sick days and unemployment. We sought to examine the prevalence of workplace bullying and its association with socioeconomic factors and psychological distress in a large observational study of Malaysian employees. Methods: This study employed cross-sectional, self-reported survey methodology. We used the 6-item Kessler screening scale (K6) to assess psychological distress (cutoff score ≥ 13, range 0-24, with higher scores indicating greater psychological distress). Participants self-reported their perceptions of whether they had been bullied at work and how frequently this occurred. A multivariate logistic regression was conducted with ever bullying and never bullying as dichotomous categories. Results: There were a total of 5235 participants (62.3{\%} female). Participant ages ranged from 18 to 85, mean ± standard deviation (M ± SD): 33.88 ± 8.83. A total of 2045 (39.1{\%}) participants reported ever being bullied. Of these, 731 (14.0{\%}) reported being subject to at least occasional bullying, while another 194 (3.7{\%}) reported it as a common occurrence. Across all income strata, mean scores for psychological distress were significantly higher for ever bullied employees (M ± SD: 8.69 ± 4.83) compared to those never bullied (M ± SD: 5.75 ± 4.49). Regression analysis indicated significant associations (p < 0.001) between workplace bullying with being female (Adjusted OR (aOR) = 1.27, 95{\%} CI 1.12-1.44), higher individual income levels of between RM4,000 to RM7,999 (aOR =1.24, 95{\%} CI 1.06-1.45) and RM8,000 and above (aOR = 1.31, 95{\%} CI 1.10-1.56), and psychological distress (aOR = 1.15, 95{\%} CI 1.13-1.16). Conclusions: More than one in three employees reported having experienced workplace bullying, which was found to be specifically associated with being female, drawing a higher income, and greater psychological distress. In general, low individual income was associated with greater psychological distress. However, higher income employees were far more likely to report experiencing workplace bullying. Findings from this study offer relevant insight into the associations between socioeconomic status and psychological distress in workplace bullying.",
keywords = "Employee health, K6, Mental health, Psychological distress, Socioeconomic status, Vulnerable populations, Workplace bullying",
author = "{Caryn Mei Hsien}, Chan and Wong, {Jyh Eiin} and Yeap, {Lena Lay Ling} and Wee, {Lei Hum} and {Jamil @ A. Wahab}, {Nor Aini} and {Swarna Nantha}, Yogarabindranath",
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T2 - A cross-sectional study

AU - Caryn Mei Hsien, Chan

AU - Wong, Jyh Eiin

AU - Yeap, Lena Lay Ling

AU - Wee, Lei Hum

AU - Jamil @ A. Wahab, Nor Aini

AU - Swarna Nantha, Yogarabindranath

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N2 - Background: 1Little is known of the extent of workplace bullying in Malaysia, despite its growing recognition worldwide as a serious public health issue in the workplace. Workplace bullying is linked to stress-related health issues, as well as socioeconomic consequences which may include absenteeism due to sick days and unemployment. We sought to examine the prevalence of workplace bullying and its association with socioeconomic factors and psychological distress in a large observational study of Malaysian employees. Methods: This study employed cross-sectional, self-reported survey methodology. We used the 6-item Kessler screening scale (K6) to assess psychological distress (cutoff score ≥ 13, range 0-24, with higher scores indicating greater psychological distress). Participants self-reported their perceptions of whether they had been bullied at work and how frequently this occurred. A multivariate logistic regression was conducted with ever bullying and never bullying as dichotomous categories. Results: There were a total of 5235 participants (62.3% female). Participant ages ranged from 18 to 85, mean ± standard deviation (M ± SD): 33.88 ± 8.83. A total of 2045 (39.1%) participants reported ever being bullied. Of these, 731 (14.0%) reported being subject to at least occasional bullying, while another 194 (3.7%) reported it as a common occurrence. Across all income strata, mean scores for psychological distress were significantly higher for ever bullied employees (M ± SD: 8.69 ± 4.83) compared to those never bullied (M ± SD: 5.75 ± 4.49). Regression analysis indicated significant associations (p < 0.001) between workplace bullying with being female (Adjusted OR (aOR) = 1.27, 95% CI 1.12-1.44), higher individual income levels of between RM4,000 to RM7,999 (aOR =1.24, 95% CI 1.06-1.45) and RM8,000 and above (aOR = 1.31, 95% CI 1.10-1.56), and psychological distress (aOR = 1.15, 95% CI 1.13-1.16). Conclusions: More than one in three employees reported having experienced workplace bullying, which was found to be specifically associated with being female, drawing a higher income, and greater psychological distress. In general, low individual income was associated with greater psychological distress. However, higher income employees were far more likely to report experiencing workplace bullying. Findings from this study offer relevant insight into the associations between socioeconomic status and psychological distress in workplace bullying.

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KW - Employee health

KW - K6

KW - Mental health

KW - Psychological distress

KW - Socioeconomic status

KW - Vulnerable populations

KW - Workplace bullying

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