New York Times 20 Feb 2013
Victims of bullying at school, and bullies themselves, are more likely to experience psychiatric problems in childhood, studies have shown. Now researchers have found that elevated risk of psychiatric trouble extends into adulthood, sometimes even a decade after the intimidation has ended.
The new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday, is the most comprehensive effort to date to establish the long-term consequences of childhood bullying, experts said.
“It documents the elevated risk across a wide range of mental health outcomes and over a long period of time,” said Catherine Bradshaw, an expert on bullying and a deputy director of the Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence at Johns Hopkins University, which was not involved in the study.
“The experience of bullying in childhood can have profound effects on mental health in adulthood, particularly among youths involved in bullying as both a perpetuator and a victim,” she added.
Researchers found that victims of bullying in childhood were 4.3 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder as adults, compared to those with no history of bullying or being bullied.
Bullies who were also victims were particularly troubled: they were 14.5 times more likely to develop panic disorder as adults, compared to those who did not experience bullying, and 4.8 times more likely to experience depression. Men who were both bullies and victims were 18.5 times more likely to have had suicidal thoughts in adulthood, compared to the participants who had not been bullied or perpetuators. Their female counterparts were 26.7 times more likely to have developed agoraphobia, compared to children not exposed to bullying.
Bullies who were not victims of bullying were 4.1 times more likely to have antisocial personality disorder as adults than those never exposed to bullying in their youth.
The effects persisted even after the researchers accounted for pre-existing psychiatric problems or other factors that might have contributed to psychiatric disorders, like physical or sexual abuse, poverty and family instability.