Childhood Bullying: Serious Long-term Consequences
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, February 24, 2016 12:00 AM

Bullying leads to much more than hurt feelings.

The largest study of its kind once again underscores just how harmful childhood bullying is, with victims much more likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder in adulthood, new research shows.

“Being a victim of bullying is frequently a traumatic experience for children, and we showed that being victimized — that is, being exposed to bullying — was independently associated with psychiatric disorders, and especially depression requiring treatment. So being frequently victimized in early school years is a risk factor for later depression, and the worst prognoses were with children who both frequently bullied and who were also exposed to bullying,” authors report.

The study was part of the multicenter Finnish Nationwide 1981 Birth Cohort Study, which included 60,007 Finnish children born from January 1 to December 1981 and who were still alive in 1989. The current study included 5034 individuals.

Children at the age of 8 years were asked whether they were victims of bullying or whether they bullied other children, and if so, how often.

Investigators then determined whether study participants required treatment of psychiatric disorders from the ages of 16 to 29 years. Follow-up was completed at the end of 2009.

Of 4540 participants who did not engage in bullying, 520 (11.5%) had received a psychiatric diagnosis at follow-up by the age of 29 years.

Among those who had engaged in frequent bullying, 33 of 166 (19.9%) had received a psychiatric diagnosis at follow-up, as had 58 of 251 (23.1%) of those who had been frequently exposed to bullying.

Of 77 participants who both frequently engaged in bullying and who were frequently exposed to it, 24 (31.2%) had received a psychiatric diagnosis by the time of follow-up, investigators add.