While many people around the world view bullying as a sometimes-unavoidable part of growing up, more and more research is revealing the dark underbelly of childhood bullying — and the lasting effects it can have on a person.
Psychological and Physiological Effects
From public high schools to private boarding schools, bullying affects kids the world over. While bullying has been associated with immediate psychological and physiological effects such as anxiety, depression and poor physical health, research indicates many of these effects persist long into adulthood.
According to a study from King’s College London, bullying’s damaging effects can last even into an adult’s 40s and 50s. In a longitudinal study spanning four decades, researchers checked in with students who had been bullied in primary school and private boarding schools at ages 23, 45 and 50. Researchers found that as late as age 50, adults who had been bullied — especially those who had been bullied repeatedly — were significantly more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and overall poorer physical health. In addition, those who had been bullied were less likely to live with a partner and less likely to report having close friends on whom they could rely.
The victims of bullying are not the only ones who are worse off down the line. Adults who were the perpetrators of bullying in their childhood are more likely to exhibit antisocial personality disorder in adulthood, and are more likely to become criminals. However, children who experience both sides of the bullying equation had the most problems later in life — children who were both bullies and victims were at higher risk of anxiety and depressive disorders than any other demographic.
Bullying Is Abuse
Whether it occurs at home or in private boarding schools, bullying isn’t some playful adolescent pastime — bullying is abuse. Whether bullying is physical, emotional, social or somewhere in between, victims of bullying exhibit the same negative effects as victims of abuse, and are deserving of the same quality of care. In order to protect against mental and physical problems later in life, combat bullying when it begins — and stop the cycle of bullying in its tracks.