Bullying’s effects can last well into adulthood

By Laura Mize • Published: July 7th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

To some people, bullying may seem like a minor problem, especially when compared with other health concerns or societal woes.

But for the kids who live with it, bullying can lead to a spectrum of long-lasting negative effects. New research by British scientists showed some harmful results of bullying can last several decades, until the victim is at least 50 years old.

The study involved people born in 1958 and queried them several times as children and adults. Those who were bullied as kids had higher rates of several adverse outcomes compared with participants who were not harassed.

Health-related negative effects included depression, psychological stress and anxiety disorders. Adults who had been bullied were more likely than others to have suicidal tendencies, poor cognitive function and lower self-esteem.

Other woes included lower education levels as adults, less overall satisfaction with life, less social interaction and lack of a spouse or live-in partner. For men, unemployment and lower wages were more likely, too.

Some of these outcomes were more likely at certain ages than at others. Similarly, the frequency of bullying affected one’s risk for some of the negative effects. Regardless, the message seems clear: Bullying can hurt, for life.

Understanding the potential long-term effects of bullying is key for educators and parents as they strive to protect kids from harm and also teach children not to mistreat others. It’s also important for adults to be aware of electronic bullying and watch for signs of it. This form of intimidation can be carried out via text messages, email, social media, websites and other means.

Don’t let bullying shape your child’s life. For more information on spotting and stopping the abuse, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, CDC.gov.