An unexpected consequence of workplace violence

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

The healthcare industry is well aware of the consequences of workplace violence. With workplace violence-related injuries in the sector clocking in at nearly five times the rate as the private sector as a whole, it'd be hard not to.

Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Government Accountability Office have called for more efforts, or even federal regulations, to target the workplace violence issue within healthcare settings. These regulations, in theory, would improve education on workplace violence and enforcement of rules against the perpetrators to prevent employees from being injured by patients.

But aside from injuries, there's another health concern linked with workplace violence that likely isn't on people's minds when they think of the issue — type 2 diabetes.

A new study in Diabetologia has found bullying and violence within workplaces may up employees' risk of developing diabetes by 46% and 26%, respectively. The study, conducted by Danish researchers, included more than 45,000 middle-aged employees working in a variety of industries.

Not surprisingly, the respondents who work in healthcare settings reported a high rate (25%) of prevalence or threats of violence within their workplaces. Higher rates were only reported among protective services workers or social workers, jobs with frequent client contact. In total, one in 10 workers surveyed said they experienced violence or bullying at their jobs.

For workers who experience workplace bullying or violence, the depression or anxiety they feel may trigger systems within the body that contribute to diabetes risk. Add that in with impaired sleep and stress or comfort eating that lead to weight gain, and workers' risks are increased even more. All of that leads to increased healthcare costs — up to $850 billion annually across the globe — as well as higher risk for other co-morbidities.

It'll likely be a while before we see any regulatory action from OSHA on violence in healthcare settings. That means it is incumbent on administrators or managers to explore strategies to prevent workplace violence.

On top of whatever efforts you may already have in place to monitor and prevent workplace violence, it could be wise to implement some sort of wellness program, or provide education for staff on healthy eating and stress coping mechanisms.

You already know it's important to keep up efforts to protect employees from workplace violence and the injuries that may stem from it. But bear in mind this latest study, and stay aware that the effects of violence may have consequences on your employees that are harder to see.

Follow Staff Writer Emily Mongan @emmongan.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.