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Bullying and being bullied in school has long-lasting health consequences, new study warns

Childhood bullying has long-lasting health consequences, for victims and aggressors alike. While bullies are more likely to take up smoking and develop aggressive behaviour during adulthood, victims could face financial difficulties and lack optimism, even decades after the incidents.

Childhood bullying has long-lasting health consequences, a new study finds, and they impact both the victims and the aggressors, even decades after the incidents occurred. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh together with specialist from Arizona State published a paper in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science looking at how adults have been affected by childhood bullying.

According to their findings, the impact of childhood bullying can be felt well into adulthood and the aggression has long-lasting effects not only on the psychological development of both the victims and the aggressors but also on their health.


The study, led by psychology researcher Karen A. Matthews, looked at a divers group of 305 American men and tracked them from the first grade through their early thirties. Scientists looked at the assessments of psycho-social, behavioral, and biological risk factors for poor health in order to better understand the impact of school bullying.

After getting the results, researchers were able to confirm that school bullies are more likely to to smoke cigarettes and use marijuana, to experience stressful circumstances, and to be aggressive and hostile at follow-up more than 20 years later.

According to Science Daily, those that fell victims to childhood bullying tended to have more financial difficulties, felt more unfairly treated by others, and were less optimistic about their future two decades later.

And in both cases, the behaviour prompted by being a bully or a victim are considered risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases. Smoking and aggressive behaviour in bullies and stress, in the case of victims, put the subjects of the study in the path of life-threatening diseases.

“The childhood bullies were still aggressive as adults and victims of bullies were still feeling like they were treated unfairly as adults,” Matthews explained. “Both groups had a lot of stress in their adult lives – so the impact of childhood bullying lasts a long time!”

The results show that early intervention in the case of school bullying could help reduce the risk that adults will have to face later in life.

A study conducted back in 2010 estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of being bullied. In US alone, some 2.7 million students are being bullied each year by about 2.1 students taking on the roll of the bully. 71% of students said that bullying is an ongoing problem and there are also increased reports of cyberbullying with about 42 % of kids having been bullied while online with one in four being verbally attacked more than once.


Looking at data from several European countries, but also including the US, a study revealed the highest percentages of victimisation in Estonia, Greenland, Latvia, Lithuania and Portugal while the the fewest incidents of bullying were registered in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Sweden.

Sylvia Jacob