According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bullying is a type of youth violence that threatens young people’s well-being. The activity can result in physical injuries, social and emotional difficulties, and academic problems. The harmful impact of bullying is frequently felt by others, including friends and families; furthermore, bullying can harm the overall health and safety of schools, neighborhoods, and society. A new study by British researchers has found that teen bullying doubles the risk of adult depression. The findings were published in the British Medical Journal.
The study authors note that depression is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. The incidence and prevalence of depression increases briskly from childhood to early adulthood; by age 18 years the prevalence is similar to that in adults. This situation has led to proposals that school based preventive programs could help to reduce the burden of depression. However, at present, school-based programs to address the problem have found well short of the mark. Therefore, the researchers examined the degree of association between victimization by peers at age 13 years and depression at 18 years. The authors reviewed data from a community-based United Kingdom study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. The study group comprised 6,719 teens who reported bullying at age 13 years. The main outcome measurement of the study was depression, defined according to international classification of diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10) criteria. The study participants were interviewed at age 18. Complete data on bullying at age 13 and depression at age 18 years was obtained on 3,898 participants.
The researchers found that, among the 683 participants who reported frequent bullying at age 13 years, 101 (14.8%) were depressed according to ICD-10 criteria at 18 years. Among the 1,446 participants who reported some bullying at age 13 years, 103 (7.1%) were depressed at age 18 years. Among the 1,769 participants who reported no bullying at age 13 years, 98 (5.5%) were depressed at age 18 years. Compared to children who were not bullied, those who were frequently bullied by peers had more than a twofold increase in the risk of depression. This association was found to be slightly decreased when adjusting for confounders (factors that could skew the data). The study results suggested that 29.2-43.7%) of depression at age 18 years could be explained by bullying.
The authors concluded that their findings are consistent with the theory that bullying by peers in adolescence is associated with an increase in the risk of developing depression as an adult. The researchers are affiliated with: Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; Centre for Academic Mental Health, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK; Department of Psychology and Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK; and Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Brain Sciences, University College London, London, UK.