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Am J Public Health. 1999 Mar;89(3):358-63.

Sexual harassment and generalized workplace abuse among university employees: prevalence and mental health correlates.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago 60612, USA.



This study hypothesized that interpersonal workplace stressors involving sexual harassment and generalized workplace abuse are highly prevalent and significantly linked with mental health outcomes including symptomatic distress, the use and abuse of alcohol, and other drug use.


Employees in 4 university occupational groups (faculty, student, clerical, and service workers; n = 2492) were surveyed by means of a mailed self-report instrument. Cross-tabular and ordinary least squares and logistic regression analyses examined the prevalence of harassment and abuse and their association with mental health status.


The data show high rates of harassment and abuse. Among faculty, females were subjected to higher rates; among clerical and service workers, males were subjected to higher rates. Male and female clerical and service workers experienced higher levels of particularly severe mistreatment. Generalized abuse was more prevalent than harassment for all groups. Both harassment and abuse were significantly linked to most mental health outcomes for men and women.


Interpersonally abusive workplace dynamics constitute a significant public health problem that merits increased intervention and prevention strategies.

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