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Sexual harassment in the workplace linked to depression

CONCERNS: Overall, 4% of women and 0.3% of men reported harassment

SEXUAL HARASSMENT in the workplace can cause depression and work absence, a new study has revealed.

The study was conducted by researchers from the National Research Centre for the Working Environment, the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Copenhagen, all in Denmark.

Researchers surveyed 7,603 employees from 1,041 organisations in Denmark, and asked them about symptoms of depression and whether they'd been subjected to sexual harassment from colleagues or customers or clients in the past 12 months. Overall, 4% of women and 0.3% of men reported harassment.

People who reported harassment from customers or clients scored 2.05 points higher on a 50-point depression score than those reporting no harassment. People reporting harassment from colleagues scored 2.45 points higher.

Women were much more likely to face this treatment than men with 169 out of 4,116 – compared to just 11 out of 3,487 men – reporting sexual harassment by customers. Of those who said colleagues had done this to them, 48 were women and 31 were men.

One of the researchers, Dr Ida Madsen, of National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Denmark, said: “We were surprised to see the differences between the effects of harassment by clients or customers compared to harassment by other employees. This is not something that has been shown before.

"Previous research showed an increased risk of long-term sickness absence for employees exposed to sexual harassment by a colleague, supervisor or subordinate, but an increased risk was not always found in association with sexual harassment by clients or customers.”

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