Bullying is known to have a very negative impact on a person’s childhood. However, a new study reports that the consequences of bullying on an individual’s mental health can still show signs even in adulthood.
Young children who have experienced persistent bullying are at a higher risk of low employment and their relationships not lasting. Bullying during childhood has also been linked to the use of mental health services throughout an individual’s life. According to the new study, adults who experienced bullying during their childhood were twice as likely to opt for mental health services.
The current study, published in Psychological Medicine, was conducted by the LSE (London School of Economics and Political Sciences) and King’s College London. The research tracked more than 9000 individuals over a span of 40 years. The results showed that girls had a lower level of ‘mental health services use’ during their childhood and adolescence compared to boys. However, women were more likely to use mental health services, compared to men, during adulthood.
According to Dr. Sara Evans-Lacko, the lead researcher of the study, bullying had the most noticeable impacts during the early ages of childhood. However, the impacts could still be quite significant in some people at the age of 50. Furthermore, bullied individuals, even at 50-years-old, were 30% more likely to avail mental health services when compared to people who weren’t bullied during childhood. By the age of 15, signs of poor mental health were already exhibited by almost 50% of the adult population.
If these poor mental health signs at an early age aren’t treated then they can give rise to severe mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, psychotic disorders, and even self-harm. Experiencing bullying during childhood might even give rise to a cycle because of which individuals are at high risk of being exposed to remaining victims as they grow older.
The fact that more boys use mental health services at a younger age, compared to girls, might be because adults are able to recognize the outward signs due to bullying. However, grown women using more mental health services compared to men could be because of the stigmatization of male health problems and thus, their hesitance to find proper support.
Louise Arseneault, a Professor from King’s College London, said that previous research has been conducted that provide strong evidence with regards to the link present between bullying and harmful impacts on children that last even up to midlife. The current study is the first time a team of researchers were able to present the impact of childhood bullying on the UK’s health care system. The results from the current study add to the evidence that supports the idea of recognizing childhood bullying and providing the proper level of treatment and intervention to prevent individuals from suffering from mental health problems when they grow up. This will help people experience healthier lives and will also give rise to a positive financial effect on the NHS with regards to healthcare during the course of an individual’s life.
The researchers urge for the implementation of anti-bullying initiatives in order to stop children from having such negative experiences during their childhood. The current healthcare system is facing a lot of strain and that is why practices and policies to prevent childhood bullying should be prioritized.