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Physical and Psychological Violence at the Workplace

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[Excerpt] Key findings Workplace violence is a social phenomenon of a certain magnitude. Overall, approximately 6% of European workers report having experienced some form of workplace violence, either physical or psychological, in the past 12 months. Non-physical forms of workplace violence (such as verbal abuse, threats of physical violence and unwanted sexual attention) experienced in the past month are reported by 12% of workers. Overall, levels of reported psychological violence are higher than those of physical violence. Of the diverse types of psychological violence, bullying or general harassment is more prevalent than sexual harassment. There are variations in exposure to workplace bullying between European countries. On the whole, exposure to bullying or harassment is comparatively greater in France and the Benelux countries, while reported levels are lower in southern and eastern European countries. The country variations of reported exposure may reflect different levels of awareness of the issue and willingness to report, as well as of actual occurrence. Major differences in the incidence of workplace violence are apparent across sectors. Exposure to all forms of violence tends to be concentrated in sectors with above-average contact with the public. The level of physical and psychological violence is particularly high in the health and social work sectors as well as in public administration. Women, particularly younger women, appear to be more subject to sexual harassment in the workplace than men. Both physical and psychological violence have serious implications for the health and well-being of workers. Workers exposed to psychosocial risks report significantly higher levels of work-related ill-health than those who are not. The most common reported symptoms are stress, sleeping problems, fatigue and depression. Exposure to psychological violence is correlated with higher-than-average rates of absenteeism. Although psychological violence is, by its nature, more cumulative in its impact than physical violence, its negative health effects measured in terms of absenteeism appear to be as detrimental as physical workplace violence. Work environment factors contribute to the incidence of workplace violence. For example, high levels of work intensity (tight deadlines, working at very high speed), a high number of work pace constraints and working in frequent contact with customers, clients and other non-colleagues are associated with a higher likelihood of being bullied.

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Eurofound; workplace violence; Europe; psychological violence; physical violence


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