5 Ways school bullying can change your life

We all know somebody who was bullied or is being bullied at school - perhaps you were a victim of bullying yourself. Kids can be cruel, but it's not often we stop to think of the impact that bullying could have on the rest of your life as an adult. You might find yourself getting anxious in social situations, or avoiding large groups of people - and these small things can add up, leaving you feeling worried and depressed.

Recent research carried out as part of the British National Child Development Study has revealed that school bullying does in fact have lasting effects which can continue into adulthood (1). Researchers followed the lives of almost 8,000 children born in 1958, many of whom were bullied between the ages of 7 and 11. Over 25% of the children said they had been bullied occasionally, with 15% reporting frequent bullying. The researchers followed the participants up to the age of 50 and tested them for evidence of the known effects of bullying at ages 23, 45 and 50. The results revealed that even after taking into account socio-economic status and IQ at the start of the study, bullying has a significant impact on people's lives for decades after it ends. We've got 5 facts from the research that we'd like to share with you - these will make you stop and think.

#1. Victims of bullying are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts

The study's results revealed that bullying victims are almost twice as likely to experience depression than those who were never bullied. By age 45, victims of frequent bullying are at an increased risk of anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts.

#2. Bullying can affect education and employment opportunities

Researchers also discovered that individuals who were bullied as children were less likely to go on to attend higher education. By the time they reached the age of 50, men (in particular) who had been bullied were more likely to be unemployed, with those who were employed tending to earn lower salaries than their non-bullied peers.

#3. Bullying can impact physical health

The results of the study showed that bullying victims were also more likely to have lower overall levels of physical fitness. By the time they reached age 50, those who were bullied as children were more likely to show signs of reduced cognitive function - although it is not clear why this should be the case. Previous research into the effects of child abuse has shown that similar problems can occur later in life, so it could be that extreme stress at an early age leads to premature ageing and faster mental decline (and there is evidence to support this) (2).

#4. Children who were bullied are more likely to suffer relationship problems as adults

It may come as no great surprise to learn that bullying can impact a person's relationships, but the extent of the impact may shock you. Those who had been bullied as children were far less likely to be in a stable, long-term relationship by the time they reached age 50. They felt less able to rely on friends in times of illness or need and were less likely to spend free time meeting up with friends. This social isolation and lack of a support network has been linked to depression and anxiety.

#5. Victims of bullying may have a less positive outlook on life

Bullying victims were shown to be less likely to believe their lives could improve, and less likely to have a positive outlook for the future.

Why does bullying have such an impact?

Researchers are still unsure why bullying has such a profound impact on us in later life. One theory suggests that bullying at a young age may create a cycle of victimisation that makes individuals less able to stand up for themselves in later life. Another theory suggests that bullying can actually create changes in body chemistry that leave us more prone to developing anxiety and depression.

Early intervention is key if we are to protect our children and prevent bullying from ruining lives. Professor Louise Arseneault, lead author of the study, said, "Teachers, parents and policy-makers should be aware that what happens in the school playground can have long-term repercussions for children. 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."

There are plenty of people who have managed to overcome their experiences of childhood bullying and gone on to lead happy, successful lives, but there will always be those who suffer emotionally and physically as a result of bullying at school - and we need to do more to stop this.

​READ THIS NEXT: How to get your kids into fitness

Works cited:

  1. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13101401

  2. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/explainer/2013/01/obama_appearance_inauguration_does_stress_make_presidents_age_faster.html

Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 26th Nov 2015 at 12:03

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