Up to 1 in 3 people in the US report having been bullied during childhood — most often at middle school.
Bullying is linked to mental health problems in later years, new research finds.
However, these tend to fade over the years, showing the remarkable resilience of many children.
The study followed 11,108 twins who were followed until they were 16-years-old.
Dr Jean-Baptiste Pingault, one of the study’s authors, said:
“Previous studies have shown that bullied children are more likely to suffer mental health issues, but give little evidence of a causal link, as pre-existing vulnerabilities can make children both more likely to be bullied and experience worse mental health outcomes.
We used a robust study design to identify causation.”
Bullying was linked to later conduct problems, depression, anxiety and other psychological problems.
However, five years later, most of these issues had faded away.
Dr Pingault said:
“While our findings show that being bullied leads to detrimental mental health outcomes, they also offer a message of hope by highlighting the potential for resilience.
Bullying certainly causes suffering, but the impact on mental health decreases over time, so children are able to recover in the medium term.
The detrimental effects of bullying show that more needs to be done to help children who are bullied.
In addition to interventions aimed at stopping bullying from happening, we should also support children who have been bullied by supporting resilience processes on their path to recovery.
Our findings highlight the importance of continuous support to mental health care for children and adolescents.”
Dr Sophie Dix, Director of Research at MQ: Transforming Mental Health said:
“This important research is further strong evidence of the need to take the mental health impacts of bullying seriously.
We hope this study provides fresh impetus to make sure young people at risk — and those currently being bullied — get effective help as soon as possible.
More than one in five UK young people say they’ve recently been bullied.
And now this unprecedented study gives the strongest evidence to date that bullying can directly cause many common mental health conditions — and have a serious effect on mental health in the long-term.
But the good news is that it shows that people can and do get better — demonstrating the importance of resilience.
Now we need to understand why this is and develop new ways, through research, to intervene and change lives.”
The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry (Singham et al., 2017).