A recent study finds chronic bullying has a long term effect on health, including anxiety, depression and impaired self worth.
The study examines “how the effects of bullying can compound over time or snowball” by focusing on students’ past and present bullying experiences, says Laura Bogart, a social psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study. It is in the March issue of Pediatrics and published online Monday.
Using surveys collected from 4,300 public school students in Houston, Los Angeles and Birmingham, Ala., researchers found that 22% of students reported being bullied in the fifth grade. As in other studies, the likelihood of being bullied declined as students got older, with 5% reporting being victimized in the seventh grade and 3% reporting it in the 10th grade.
The analysis shows that students who reported both past and current bullying scored significantly worse on various health measures, followed by those who reported being bullied in the present only, then those bullied in the past only and those reporting no history of being bullied.
For example, on measures of:
•Psycho-social health (such as anger, fear and anxiety), 45% of 10th-graders bullied in both the past and present scored low compared with 31% of those bullied in the present only, 12% of those bullied in the past only and 7% of those never bullied.
•Depression, 30% of 10th-graders bullied in the past and present exhibited the worst symptoms, compared with 19% of those bullied in the present only, 13% of those bullied in the past only and 8% never bullied.
•Self-worth, 29% of 10th-graders bullied in the past and present had the lowest scores, compared with 20% of those bullied only in the present; 12% of those bullied only in the past and 8% who were not bullied.
•Physical health (such as a student’s comfort with playing sports and being physically active), 30% of seventh-graders bullied in both the past and present scored low compared with 24% of those bullied in the present only, 15% of those bulled in the past only and 6% of those never bullied.
At 10th grade, 22% of those bullied in both the past and present scored low on physical health, compared with 26% of those bullied in the present only, but those two percentages are not statistically different, Bogart says.
“The results still support the general pattern of more recent and chronic bullying being related to worse health, as compared to kids who are not bullied or bullied in the past only,” she says.
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