Scientists say the mental health impact of childhood bullying appears to dissipate over the years, suggesting recovery is possible
The negative impacts of bullying in childhood appear to lessen after five years, a new UK study suggests. Research by University College London published in JAMA Psychiatry looked at 11,000 twins over a period of five years through adolescence, exploring the connections between bullying and mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Previous studies have shown that bullied children are more likely to su er mental illness. However, the new study differs by using over 11,000 participants from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), meaning that researchers could take environmental influences into account (with the twins growing up together), as well as genetics.
Researchers asked the participants and their parents to complete questionnaires, where at ages 11 and 14 they were asked about “peer victimisation”, and at 11 and 16 were revealing their mental health difficulties. The study found that once they accounted for genetics and environmental factors, there was still evidence of bullying resulting in anxiety, depression, impulsivity and behaviour problems. They noted that while anxiety remained after two years, after five years there wasn’t an effect on any of those mental health issues.
Study author, Dr Pingault, said: “While our findings show that being bullied leads to detrimental mental health outcomes, they also offer a message of hope by highlighting the potential for resilience.”
While it’s good news that children can recover from the detrimental impact bullying can have on mental health, it’s still important that schools tackle bullying head-on. Bernadka Dubicka, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, noted: “It is vital that schools have whole-school bullying approaches to help tackle this problem, and also that we can provide adequate mental health services to support young people when they are in distress.”