The impact of sexual harassment can be so severe that it can lead to suicidal behaviour, according to a new study.
The team of Swedish researchers responsible for the study say no workplace can be considered safe unless it’s free of harassment.
The impact of sexual harassment
Previous research has shown that workplace sexual harassment can cause anxiety, depression and even PTSD.
The new study by The BMJ found workers exposed to sexual harassment are also at greater risk of suicide and attempting suicide.
Researchers used a Swedish Work Environment Survey data base of 85,205 men and women of working age.
They each completed a questionnaire asking if they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past 12 months.
The research team then recorded any suicides or suicide attempts by these workers over a follow-up period of 13 years.
Overall, 4.8 percent of the workers reported workplace sexual harassment during the previous 12 months.
Those affected were more likely to be younger, single, divorced and in low paid but high strain jobs.
A total of 125 people died from suicide and 816 made a suicide attempt during the follow-up period.
After adjusting for demographic factors, the study found exposure to workplace sexual harassment is associated with a 2.82 times greater risk of suicide and 1.59 times greater risk of attempted suicide.
Harassment is an occupational hazard
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan says the study underscores the need for employers to take sexual harassment seriously.
“It is clear that sexual harassment is an occupational hazard,” he said.
“It can severely impact worker’s mental health, and, as this study suggests, it can also endanger life.
“Employers need to have strong policies in place and must take all complaints of sexual misconduct seriously.”
American researchers insist that victims of sexual harassment receive mental health screening and treatment to mitigate risks for subsequent concerns, including suicidality.
Reach out for help
If you have experienced sexual harassment, Mr Heffernan says his firm can help
“We can take steps to have the behaviour stopped, and can commence legal action to claim substantial compensation,” he said.
If your mental health is suffering as a result of sexual harassment, there is help available.
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Q Life – 1800 184 527
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
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