Effects of Childhood Bullying Persist Far Into Midlife

Posted May 19, 2014

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A 5 decade-long nationwide study reveals that the impact of being bullied in childhood persists up to mid-life. The harmful effects extend beyond psychological distress to lower levels of education, physical and cognitive health problems, and poor social functioning.
 
Participants who were bullied frequently as children had higher rates of anxiety and suicidal thoughts or plans at age 45, compared to those who were not bullied. They were less likely to be living with a partner, were more isolated and had lower levels of life satisfaction.
 
Even those bullied occasionally were more likely than those who were not bullied to have psychological distress or depression at midlife. They also had poorer cognitive functioning, general health, social support and quality of life. 
 
These findings from the British National Child Development Study will be published online by The American Journal of Psychiatry. The National Child Development Study followed the lives of all children born in England, Scotland and Wales during 1 week in 1958. This study was based on more than 7,700 participants with information on bullying in childhood (between ages 7 and 11) and psychological distress at ages 23 and 50. 
 
Senior investigator Louise Arseneault, Ph.D., King’s College London, points out that although the effects were relatively small, they were similar to the effect of being placed in foster care or being exposed to multiple childhood adversities, and that they were independent of IQ, social class and other childhood conditions that might have been related to worse outcomes in adulthood. 
 
According to Arseneault, “It is striking that 40 years after having been bullied in childhood, individuals continue to show persistent and pervasive negative outcomes, including poor mental, physical and cognitive health. It is unlikely that bullying operates in isolation to create such lifelong adversities, and we need to understand the impact of bullying in the context of other forms of childhood abuse and identity pathways leading to poor adult outcomes. 
Source: American Psychiatric Association, www.psychiatric.org
A 5 decade-long nationwide study reveals that the impact of being bullied in childhood persists up to mid-life. The harmful effects extend beyond psychological distress to lower levels of education, physical and cognitive health problems, and poor social functioning.
 
Participants who were bullied frequently as children had higher rates of anxiety and suicidal thoughts or plans at age 45, compared to those who were not bullied. They were less likely to be living with a partner, were more isolated and had lower levels of life satisfaction.
 
Even those bullied occasionally were more likely than those who were not bullied to have psychological distress or depression at midlife. They also had poorer cognitive functioning, general health, social support and quality of life. 
 
These findings from the British National Child Development Study will be published online by The American Journal of Psychiatry. The National Child Development Study followed the lives of all children born in England, Scotland and Wales during 1 week in 1958. This study was based on more than 7,700 participants with information on bullying in childhood (between ages 7 and 11) and psychological distress at ages 23 and 50. 
 
Senior investigator Louise Arseneault, Ph.D., King’s College London, points out that although the effects were relatively small, they were similar to the effect of being placed in foster care or being exposed to multiple childhood adversities, and that they were independent of IQ, social class and other childhood conditions that might have been related to worse outcomes in adulthood. 
 
According to Arseneault, “It is striking that 40 years after having been bullied in childhood, individuals continue to show persistent and pervasive negative outcomes, including poor mental, physical and cognitive health. It is unlikely that bullying operates in isolation to create such lifelong adversities, and we need to understand the impact of bullying in the context of other forms of childhood abuse and identity pathways leading to poor adult outcomes. 
Source: American Psychiatric Association, www.psychiatric.org
A 5 decade-long nationwide study reveals that the impact of being bullied in childhood persists up to mid-life. The harmful effects extend beyond psychological distress to lower levels of education, physical and cognitive health problems, and poor social functioning.
 
Participants who were bullied frequently as children had higher rates of anxiety and suicidal thoughts or plans at age 45, compared to those who were not bullied. They were less likely to be living with a partner, were more isolated and had lower levels of life satisfaction.
 
Even those bullied occasionally were more likely than those who were not bullied to have psychological distress or depression at midlife. They also had poorer cognitive functioning, general health, social support and quality of life. 
 
These findings from the British National Child Development Study will be published online by The American Journal of Psychiatry. The National Child Development Study followed the lives of all children born in England, Scotland and Wales during 1 week in 1958. This study was based on more than 7,700 participants with information on bullying in childhood (between ages 7 and 11) and psychological distress at ages 23 and 50. 
 
Senior investigator Louise Arseneault, Ph.D., King’s College London, points out that although the effects were relatively small, they were similar to the effect of being placed in foster care or being exposed to multiple childhood adversities, and that they were independent of IQ, social class and other childhood conditions that might have been related to worse outcomes in adulthood. 
 
According to Arseneault, “It is striking that 40 years after having been bullied in childhood, individuals continue to show persistent and pervasive negative outcomes, including poor mental, physical and cognitive health. It is unlikely that bullying operates in isolation to create such lifelong adversities, and we need to understand the impact of bullying in the context of other forms of childhood abuse and identity pathways leading to poor adult outcomes. 
Source: American Psychiatric Association, www.psychiatric.org

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