Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Work related violence and threats and the risk of depression and stress disorders
  1. Joanna Wieclaw1,
  2. Esben Agerbo2,
  3. Preben Bo Mortensen2,
  4. Hermann Burr3,
  5. Finn Tüchsen3,
  6. Jens Peter Bonde1
  1. 1Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
  2. 2National Centre for Register-Based Research, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  3. 3National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to:
 MsJ Wieclaw
 Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Norrbrogade 44, building 2C, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark; jwiec{at}


Objective: To examine the risk of depression and stress related disorders as a function of occupational exposure to violence and threats.

Design: Population based nested case-control study.

Setting: All gainfully employed Danes.

Cases and controls: 14 166 hospital inpatients and outpatients, aged 18–65, treated for affective or stress related disorders during 1995–1998 selected from The Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register and 58 060 controls matched for age, sex, and time, drawn from Statistics Denmark’s Integrated Database for Labour Market Research.

Main outcome measure: Clinical psychiatric diagnosis (WHO ICD-10) of affective (F30–39) or stress related (F40–48) disorders compared with controls by the occupation held the year before treatment. The occupation held the year before treatment was used as exposure proxy.

Results: Potential exposure to occupational violence is associated with significantly increased relative risks of both disorders in either sex (women: depression RR 1.45 CI 1.27 to 1.65, stress RR 1.32 CI 1.19 to 1.46; men: depression RR 1.48 CI 1.18 to 1.86, stress RR 1.55 CI 1.29 to 1.84). Work related threats are associated with increase in the risk of depression in women (RR 1.48 CI 1.23 to 1.79) and the risk of stress related disorders in men (RR 1.59 CI 1.32 to 1.91). Risks rose with increasing prevalence of violence and threats. The results remain significant and only slightly attenuated after controlling for extent of professional contact with people other than colleagues.

Conclusions: Employment in occupations involving exposure to work related threats and violence is a risk factor for depression and stress related disorders in both sexes. These findings have implications for health and safety at work policies.

  • depression
  • stress
  • occupation
  • violence
  • threats

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: the work of JW, JPB, HB, and FT was supported by a grant from the Danish Working Environment Council. The Stanley Medical Research Institute supported the work of EA and PBM. Psychiatric epidemiological research at the National Centre for Register-based Research is in part funded through a collaborative agreement with Centre for Basic Psychiatric Research, Psychiatric Hospital in Aarhus.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

Linked Articles

  • In this issue
    Carlos Alvarez-Dardet John R Ashton