Bullying in childhood linked to long-term mental health issues

Credit: Unsplash+.

A new study by researchers from UCLA Health and the University of Glasgow has uncovered a significant link between childhood bullying, the development of distrust in others, and long-term mental health challenges.

Published in Nature Mental Health, this research sheds light on the profound impact bullying has on adolescents’ psychological well-being as they transition into adulthood.

Utilizing data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which tracked 10,000 children in the United Kingdom for nearly two decades, the study found a troubling correlation.

Young teenagers, bullied at age 11 and consequently developing a heightened sense of distrust by age 14, were about 3.5 times more likely to suffer from severe mental health issues by age 17. This comparison was made against their peers who did not develop such deep-seated trust issues.

This research is particularly timely, given the rising concern over youth mental health.

Recent findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight the urgency of addressing this crisis, with a significant portion of high school students reporting persistent feelings of depression and instances of suicide attempts.

The study’s approach, rooted in Social Safety Theory, suggests that bullying exacerbates mental health problems partly by fostering a belief that others are not to be trusted.

This is a significant shift in understanding the pathways through which bullying can affect an individual’s mental health, moving beyond the immediate emotional and psychological effects to consider longer-term impacts.

Dr. George Slavich, the study’s senior author and the director of UCLA Health’s Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research, emphasizes the importance of this research in developing interventions.

He suggests that schools and other institutions must focus on creating environments that promote interpersonal trust, especially during critical transitions such as the move to high school or college.

This could involve the implementation of evidence-based programs aimed at fostering positive, trusting relationships among students.

The unique aspect of this study lies in its longitudinal analysis, tracing the effects of bullying over several years to establish a clear link to mental health outcomes in late adolescence.

This method provides compelling evidence of the need for targeted interventions to mitigate the damaging effects of bullying and prevent the onset of mental health issues.

In light of these findings, there’s a call to action for schools and communities to invest in programs that not only address bullying directly but also work to rebuild trust among students.

By focusing on creating a supportive and trusting school environment, there’s potential to significantly improve the mental health and resilience of young people, setting them on a path to a healthier, more fulfilling life.

The study not only highlights the critical impact of bullying on mental health but also underscores the importance of early intervention and support for those affected.

As Dr. Slavich points out, addressing these issues during adolescence can prevent a cascade of mental and physical health problems across a person’s lifetime, making this research a vital step forward in our understanding of the long-term effects of bullying.

If you care about depression, please read studies about vegetarianism linked to higher risk of depression, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and these antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.

The research findings can be found in Nature Mental Health.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.