Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bullying's Sequelae Don't Fade With Age

Bullying may be a common ordeal of childhood, but its consequences are serious and last well into adulthood in the form of multiple psychiatric disorders. In one of the only long-term prospective studies of the effects of bullying—whether as a bully, a victim, or both—William Copeland, Ph.D., of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, and colleagues followed 1,420 subjects from childhood into adulthood to determine effects of bullying on mental health. Subjects were assessed four to six times from ages 9 to 16, and three times from ages 19 to 26. In the childhood and adolescent assessments, the child and primary caregiver indicated whether the youngster had been bullied or had bullied others. Psychiatric outcomes in adulthood were determined through interviews using the Young Adult Psychiatric Assessment.

They researchers found dramatic differences in psychiatric outcomes in young adulthood between those who had bullying involvement and those who reported no bullying history, according to their report yesterday in JAMA Psychiatry. After controlling for psychiatric history and family hardship, they found, for example, that those who were only victims had higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorder, and agoraphobia as adults. Panic disorder findings were especially troubling, being 14.5 times more likely than among those with no bullying involvement. Those who were bullies and victims showed higher rates of depression and anxiety disorders, as well as suicidality, with nearly 25% reporting suicidality in adulthood, compared with 5.7% of those without involvement. Those who were bullies but not victims were 4.1 times more likely to have antisocial personality disorder as adults than peers unexposed to bullying.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist and APA Treasurer David Fassler, M.D., told Psychiatric News that "The findings underscore the importance of early detection, intervention, and prevention programs. Despite increased education and awareness, bullying is still a common experience for many children and adolescents. As this study demonstrates, there are often lasting consequences for both bullies and their victims, including increased rates of depression, anxiety, and antisocial personality disorder."

To read more about psychiatric consequences of bullying, see Psychiatric News here and here

(image: Suzanne Tucker/


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