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Study: Bullying’s Effects Felt Decades Later

A nationwide survey found that 1 in 5 high school students had been bullied at school.

By University Alliance on October 09, 2014
Bullying Victims Suffer ‘Long-Term Repercussions’

New research into the effects of bullying shows that victims can suffer detrimental psychological, physical and social consequences for decades. 

“Like other forms of childhood abuse, bullying victimization has a pervasive effect on functioning and health outcomes up to midlife,” the researchers concluded.

The study, published in April 2014 by The American Journal of Psychiatry, followed 7,771 people all born during one week in 1958 in England, Scotland or Wales. Their parents first identified them as occasional or frequent victims of bullying at ages 7 or 11. Researchers then followed up with the study participants at ages 23, 45 and 50.

By age 50, individuals who were bullied in childhood were more likely to be in poorer mental and physical health than their non-bullied peers. The study also found that bullying victims were worse off than their peers in terms of cognitive functioning.

Victims of frequent bullying were more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and to have suicidal thoughts at age 45. Victims of occasional bullying were at a higher risk for depression. The researchers equated the mental health risks for bullying victims to those associated with children in the study who had spent time in foster care.

The study also found associations between bullying victimization and a lack of social relationships, increased economic hardships and perceptions of a poor quality of life by age 50.

“Teachers, parents and policy-makers should be aware that what happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions for children,” study co-author Louise Arseneault, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, told the BBC.

While anti-bullying programs are essential, there must also be a focus on intervening early in order to prevent problems from lingering into adulthood, Arseneault said.

In a 2011 survey, about 20% of high school students reported being bullied on school property, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 16% of high school students reported being victimized electronically in the preceding 12 months.

The CDC recognizes bullying as “a form of youth violence” that can include physical acts or verbal abuse. Bullying can also be social in nature, such as rumor spreading or social shunning. Cyber-bullying, or bullying through email or the Internet, also has become common.

For more information on bullying and how to prevent it, visit

Category: 2014 Headlines