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Effects of Bullying can Last 50 years, Study Reports

Update Date: Apr 18, 2014 03:36 PM EDT

Bullying can cause severe mental and health problems for the victims. Even though bullying tends to dwindle down after people grow up, a new study is reporting that the effects of childhood bullying can last for decades. The researchers from King's College London in the United Kingdom found that being bullied as a child increases one's risk of developing depression and anxiety in late adulthood.

For this study, the researchers recruited 7,771 children born in 1958. The researchers monitored the children's mental and physical health starting at the age of seven and through to the age of 50. The researchers collected data on bullying by interviewing parents when the children were between seven and 11-years-old. During this time frame, over 25 percent of the children were bullied occasionally and 15 percent were bullied consistently. The researchers then conducted tests to measure psychological distress and overall health when the participants turned 23. At 45-years-old, the participants took tests that measured psychiatric problems. When the participants reached 50-years-old, their cognitive functioning, social relationships and well-being were all assessed.

The researchers found that the more exposure a child had to bullying, the more likely the child reported poorer health in adulthood. Frequently bullied children were also more likely to have depression and anxiety as adults. In terms of academic success, bullied children tended to be less educated in comparison to those who were not bullied. For men in particular, bullied boys were more likely to be unemployed or earned less in adulthood.

"We need 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 for children," Professor Louise Arseneault, senior study author, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said according to BBC News. "Programs to stop bullying are extremely important, but we also need to focus our efforts on early intervention to prevent potential problems persisting into adolescence and adulthood."

The study, "Adult health outcomes of childhood bullying victimization: Evidence from a 5-decade longitudinal British cohort," was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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