Negative social acts and pain: Evidence of a workplace bullying and 5-HTT genotype interaction

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Objectives Long-term exposure to systematic negative acts at work, usually labeled workplace bullying, is a prevalent problem at many workplaces. The adverse effects of such exposure may range from psychological symptoms, such as depression and anxiety to somatic ailments like cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal complaints. In this study, we examined the relationships among exposure to negative acts, genetic variability in the 5-HTT gene SLC6A4 and pain. Methods The study was based on a nationally representative survey of 987 Norwegian employees drawn from the Norwegian Central Employee Register by Statistics Norway. Exposure to bullying in the workplace was measured with the 9-item version of the Negative Acts Questionnaire Revised (NAQ-R) inventory. Pain was rated using an 11-point (0-10) numeric rating scale (NRS). Genotyping with regard to SLC6A4 was carried out using a combination of gel-electrophoresis and TaqMan assay. Results The data revealed a significant interaction between exposure to negative acts and the SLC6A4 genotype with regard to pain (linear regression with 5000 resamples; age, sex, tobacco use and education were included as covariates). The relationship between negative acts and pain intensity was significantly stronger for subjects with the LALA genotype than for subjects with the SLA/LALG/SLG genotype. No significant difference between subjects with the LALA genotype and SS genotype was observed. Conclusions Our data demonstrated that the relationship between bullying and pain was modified by the 5-HTT genotype, ie, genetic variation in SLC6A4. The association between negative acts and health among vulnerable individuals appeared more potent than previously reported.




Jacobsen, D. P., Nielsen, M. B., Einarsen, S., & Gjerstad, J. (2018). Negative social acts and pain: Evidence of a workplace bullying and 5-HTT genotype interaction. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 44(3), 283–290.

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