Work-related Violence and Incident Use of Psychotropics

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Abstract

Although the mental health consequences of domestic violence are well documented, empirical evidence is scarce regarding the mental health effects of violence in the workplace. Most studies have used data from small occupation-specific samples, limiting their generalizability. This article examines whether direct exposure to work-related violence is associated with clinically pertinent mental health problems, measured by purchases of psychotropics (antidepressants, anxiolytics, hypnotics), in a cross-occupational sample of 15,246 Danish employees free from using psychotropics at baseline. Self-reported data on work-related violence were merged with other data on purchases of medications through a national registry to estimate cause-specific hazard ratios during 3.6 years (1,325 days) of follow-up in the years 1996–2008. Outcomes were examined as competing risks, and analyses were adjusted for gender, age, cohabitation, education, income, social support from colleagues, social support from supervisor, and influence and quantitative demands at work. Work-related violence was associated with purchasing antidepressants alone (hazard ratio = 1.38, 95% confidence interval: 1.09, 1.75) or in combination with anxiolytics (hazard ratio = 1.74, 95% confidence interval: 1.13, 2.70) but not with purchasing anxiolytics or hypnotics only. The frequency of violent episodes and risk of caseness were unrelated. Work-related violence is associated with increased risk of clinically pertinent mental health problems. Reducing levels of work-related violence may help to prevent mental disorders in the working population.

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