Researchers found that teens who had been bullied in
the past and those currently being bullied tended to have a lower
quality of life, compared to those who were bullied less or not at
This finding and previous research on the effects of bullying
suggest more rigorous work should be done on finding ways to
intervene and stop bullying, said the study's lead author.
"I think this is overwhelming support for early interventions and
immediate interventions and really advancing the science about
interventions," Laura Bogart, from Boston Children's Hospital, told
In the past, when researchers have surveyed students at one point in
time, children and teens who were being bullied tended to score
lower on measures of physical and mental health.
But few studies have examined whether the possible effects of
bullying accumulate over the years, the researchers write in the
They analyzed data from the Healthy Passages study, which surveyed
students in Alabama, California and Texas about how much bullying
they experienced and evaluated their physical and mental health.
Overall, 4,297 students completed the surveys in fifth, seventh and
The researchers found that about a third of the students had been
regularly bullied at some point during the course of the study.
Generally, those who had been bullied in the past scored better on
measures of physical and mental health, compared to those who were
currently being bullied. Teens who were bullied throughout their
school career scored the worst.
For example, about seven percent of 10th grade students who had
never been bullied scored low on mental health measures. That
compared to 12 percent who had been bullied in the past, 31 percent
who were currently being bullied and almost 45 percent of those who
underwent persistent bullying.
About eight percent of 10th grade students who were never bullied
had poor physical health, compared to 12 percent of those who were
bullied in the past, 26 percent who were currently being bullied and
22 percent who were continuously bullied.
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Poor mental health included traits such as being sad, afraid and
angry, according to Bogart. Poor physical health included
limitations like not being able to walk far and not being able to
pick up heavy objects.
"I think one key thing to take from this is that any adult that has
any contact with children ... (should) know what the signs of
bullying might be," Bogart said. "This study tells us some of them,
but not all of them."
"There are physical signs, but they're not always physical," she
For example, one non-physical sign that a young person is being
bullied is that the child doesn't want to go to school.
Bogart also said it's important for parents to know if their child
falls into one of the groups at high risk for bullying. Those groups
include children with physical disabilities, those who are
overweight and obese and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or
"I think this says — especially for parents — to be really attuned
to what's going on in their kids' lives by paying attention, knowing
what's going on during the school day and being aware so they'll
notice changes like these," she said.
Pediatrics, online Feb. 17, 2014.
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