A new study from the King’s College of London finds adults who were bullied as children experience negative effects on their physical, emotional, and economic well-being well into middle age, almost forty years later.
Researchers examined over 7700 children who were bullied at ages seven and eleven, and later assessed them between the ages of 23 and 50. The study, the first of its kind, was published at the American Psychiatric Association’s prestigious American Journal of Psychiatry.
“Our study shows that the effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Ryu Takizawa. “The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood.”
According to the study, adults who were bullied as children were more likely to experience anxiety, depression, alcohol dependence, suicidal thoughts, and psychological distress than their non-bullied adult peers.
The researchers also found that being bullied caused negative outcomes on adult social relationships, socioeconomic status, and cognitive functioning.
“Individuals who were bullied in childhood were also more likely to have lower educational levels, with men who were bullied more likely to be unemployed and earn less,” the study reports. “Social relationships and well-being were also affected. Individuals who had been bullied were less likely to be in a relationship, to have good social support, and were more likely to report lower quality of life and life satisfaction.”
Does this really surprise you?
From what I’ve witnessed throughout my years at school and from what I’ve experienced, these results are not shocking. I will be the first to tell someone that being bullied, teased, or picked on leaves lifelong scars on a person’s memory. No one can deny that fact.
Alice G. Walton, from Forbes, states, “The authors suggest that it may be that bullying creates a cycle of victimization that continues throughout life and impacts virtually every realm of life. Or it could be that the stress of being bullied ‘embeds’ itself into the very genes, affecting the hormones and brain chemicals that govern the stress response, mood, and sensitivity to one’s environment.”
We cannot allow the perception that ‘kids will be kids’ to continue, or the idea that ‘bullying is a natural part of growing up’ should persist throughout a child’s life.
In an era when children are constantly being exposed to social media apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, cyber bullying has become a growing concern for many. With this new technology, children can be bombarded with harassing texts, messages, and pictures on a 24/7 basis. The concept that the school playground is the only place where children can be harassed is an outdated thought that educators need to move away from.
In the United States, bullying has lead to children and teens being bullied to death, with some school officials claiming they had “no idea” that bullying could lead to suicide.
One Nebraska school, oblivious to the effects of bullying, last week made headlines for sending fifth graders home with a pamphlet that told them to “not tell on bullies” and “don’t be a sore loser” if they are being bullied.
It’s time for teachers, principals, parents, and policy-makers to realize that bullying can lead to lifelong consequences, for both children and society. As someone who was bullied throughout their elementary and high school years, the actions I have witnessed ultimately changed how I view people and their intentions.
For those Millersville students that eventually will become a teacher or educator, I am asking that you do not tolerate this sort of behavior in your classroom.