In the first study of its kind to look at the
effects of childhood bullying beyond early adulthood, the
researchers said its impact is "persistent and pervasive", with
people who were bullied when young more likely to have poorer
physical and psychological health and poorer cognitive functioning
at age 50.
"The effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later
... with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into
adulthood," said Ryu Takizawa, who led the study at the Institute of
Psychiatry at King's College London.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on
Friday, come from the British National Child Development Study which
includes data on all children born in England, Scotland and Wales
during one week in 1958.
It included 7,771 children whose parents gave information on their
child's exposure to bullying when they were aged 7 and 11. The
children were then followed up until they reached 50.
Bullying is characterized by repeated hurtful actions by children of
a similar age, where the victim finds it difficult to defend
More than a quarter of children in the study — 28 percent — had been
bullied occasionally, and 15 percent were bullied frequently — rates
that the researchers said were similar to the situation in Britain
The study, which adjusted for other factors such as childhood IQ,
emotional and behavioral problems and low parental involvement,
found people who were frequently bullied in childhood were at an
increased risk of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and
experiencing suicidal thoughts.
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Victims of bullying were also more likely to have lower
educational levels, less likely to be in a relationship and more
likely to report lower quality of life. Men who had been bullied
were also more likely to be unemployed and earn less.
Louise Arseneault, also from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's
and who also worked on the study, said its findings showed how
important it is "to move away from any perception that bullying is
just an inevitable part of growing-up."
"Teachers, parents and policy-makers should be aware that what
happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions,"
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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