Bullying Victims Have More Health Issues

Feeling Alone

An article posted on MSNBC on January 26th discusses a recent study conducted in Australia that shows evidence that victims of bullying have lingering mental and physical health problems as adults. As I have discussed previously in my blog, there is now evidence that being bullied as a child has long-term effects and leaves scars on adults.

A study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that adults that were bullied as children were more likely than those that weren’t to suffer from depression and anxiety, and also physical ills, such as fatigue, pain, and a greater susceptibility to colds and sickness.

Nearly 3,000 Australian adults were surveyed and almost 19% of them reported that they had been victims of constant and traumatizing bullying. According to the study:

After taking into account factors that can impact mental and physical health, such as age, gender, income, employment, education and marital status, the researchers found that bullying was linked to later problems with mental and physical health.

No one knows exactly how bullying might lead to future physical health problems, says the study’s lead author, Dr. Stephen Allison, a researcher in the department of psychiatry at Flinders University of South Australia. But, he adds, scientists suspect that the daily stress of being bullied can translate into long-term damage to your body.

Interestingly enough, the article also discusses something else I have brought up before, the activation of our natural “Fight or Flight” reaction when threatened. This releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, speeds up your heart and tenses your muscles. If this happens frequently, due to the chronic bullying or stress, the conclusion is that it can weaken your immune system and also cause pain.

The article goes on to say:

Allison and his colleagues found that adults who’d been bullied as kids reported poorer overall health and said that health problems often got in the way of both work and leisure activities. Those who had been bullied also were more likely to report body aches and pains and to complain of low energy levels and fatigue.

The new study extends to the more immediate effects other researchers have noticed in bullied kids, says William Pollack, an associate clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at Harvard’s McLean Hospital.

The hope as these study results are released is that schools will take the problem more seriously. It isn’t just an issue for the child, but studies are showing the long-term effects. Something that I believe and based this blog on several years ago when I started it. There are some ideas given by experts in the article as well:

Experts say there are some things parents can do to help their child while pushing the school to do more…What parents can do is to help develop their child’s confidence, Kazdin says. The best way to do that is to encourage them to get good at something they’re interested in, for instance, joining the school band or trying out for the cross-country team. Parents also need to remember to help repair the damage that bullying does to a child’s self-esteem, says Pollack. “You need to tell the child that this isn’t happening because there’s something wrong with him.”

These studies continue to tell people we are not alone in the long-term effects of bullying. As parents we need to stay vigilant and ensure that we help those that have suffered from constant bullying. As my last blog pointed out, even witnesses to bullying are shown to have some long-term effects. I, for one, am glad to see that these studies are being done and publicized so word can get out.

Journal Reference:
Does school bullying affect adult health? Population survey of health-related quality of life and past victimization – Authors: Stephen Allison, Leigh Roeger, Nova Reinfeld-Kirman. Published: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

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