Teen Bullying Victims Have Double The Risk Of Developing Depression In Adulthood

By: Stephanie Pappas
Published: June 02, 2015 07:32pm ET on LiveScience.

Bullying during adolescence may be responsible for almost a third of cases of depression during adulthood, new research finds.

A long-running study of British youth reveals that the people who experienced frequent bullying at age 13 had double the risk of developing clinical depression at age 18, compared with people who were never bullied.

It’s impossible to say for sure whether the bullying caused the depression, said study researcher Lucy Bowes, a psychologist at the University of Oxford. But Bowes and her colleagues say they strongly suspect there is a causal relationship. They controlled for factors that might otherwise explain the depression, including baseline depression and emotional problems that might make a person more susceptible to both bullying and to later clinical depression. [10 Scientific Tips for Raising Happy Kids]

Bullying and depression

Previous studies have linked bullying with having depression symptoms over the short term, Bowes told Live Science. And a few long-term studies have shown that people who are victims of such aggression during childhood may have long-term mental health problems. For example, a study published in 2013 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found increased risks of depression and anxiety in adulthood among bully victims, and especially among people who had both been bullied and bullied others.

But many of these previous long-term studies were limited because they couldn’t control for pre-existing conditions or because their measurements of bullying lacked detail, Bowes said. In the new study, Bowes and her colleagues used data from the United Kingdom’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which surveyed kids at age 13 with specific questions about bullying, including whether they’d experienced physical violence, threats, lies, rumors and exclusion.

“This is an age when the influence of peers becomes paramount,” Bowes said. —> Read More