Childhood bullying leaves lifelong scars

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Researchers from King’s College London have found that children who suffer bullying may still experience the related mental and physical effects at the age of 50.

The study involved the tracking of 7771 children who were born in 1958, from the age of seven through to the time they reached the age of 50. It found that those who endured frequent bullying as children were at higher risk of anxiety and depression and were more likely to have a lower quality of life when they reached the age of 50.

Anti-bullying groups have stated that it is necessary for people to have access to long-term support after being bullied.

These results are similar to those from a study done previously by Warwick University where it was found that of the 1400 people between the ages of nine and 26 who had been tracked, long-term effects were suffered.

The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and suggested that the negative effects of bullying could last into middle age. It stated that the risk of social and economic consequences, and poor health 40 years after being exposed to bullying was small at 1.5 times, which is similar to the consequences faced by children who are placed in care.

In order to collect the data, researchers questioned parents about their child’s exposure to bullying between the ages of seven and 11. More than 25% confirmed that they had endured bullying occasionally, while 15% stated that they had had to endure bullying on a frequent basis.

Over the years, individuals underwent tests at the ages of 23 and 50 for psychological distress and general health. They were tested at 45 for psychiatric issues and cognitive functioning, and at 50 tested for well-being and social relationships.

The results obtained from the study indicated that the ones who had been exposed to bullying during childhood were at higher risk of suffering poor mental health, physical health and cognitive functioning by the time they reached the age of 50.

The ones who had endured frequent bullying were at higher risk of being depressed and having thoughts of suicide.

The economic and social consequences were also exposed. The ones who had been bullied had a higher chance of being under-educated, particularly males. Males who were exposed to bullying were at higher risk of being unemployed and earning less.

Bullied individuals were less likely to be involved in a successful relationship, or to have sufficient support from family and friends at the age of 50.

The senior author of the study, Professor Louise Arseneault from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, has said that a shift away from the belief that bullying is simply part of growing up is necessary. She said that parent, policy-makers and teachers should be made aware of the long-term consequences of bullying.

Image credit: Thomas Ricker

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