Bullied Teens Have Increased Risk For Depression As Adults, Study Says

study papers, Photo By Sean Gallup/Getty Image

Teens who are bullied suffer greatly, and millions of teens are miserable in school and at social functions because they are bullied. Recent research now indicates that the effect of bullying can be far-reaching into adulthood, increasing the risk of depression in adulthood. In fact, teens who reported being bullied are twice as likely to be depressed in adulthood, according to the Examiner.

Researcher Lucy Bowes and colleagues at the University of Oxford analyzed the correlation between being bullied at age 13 and depression in young adulthood. There were 3,898 participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a U.K. community-based birth cohort.

Participants filled out a questionnaire about bullying at age 13 and an assessment used to identify whether they had depressive illness at age 18. They found that 15 percent, or 683 participants, who had been bullied frequently — meaning more than one time per week — were depressed by the time they were 18 years old, according to CBS News.

The numbers of people entering adulthood identifying as being depressed markedly decreased as the amount of bullying they suffered decreased. Of the 1,464 13-year-olds who stated that they experienced occasional bullying (defined as one to three times over a six-month period), slightly more than seven percent of those individuals reported being depressed as young adults.

A small percentage of people who indicated that they had not been bullied at 13 identified as being depressed five years later. Researchers believe that the link between bullying and being depressed is strong, although the study doesn’t definitively prove that bullying causes depression. Bowes stated the following, according to CBS News.

“Our results suggest what we call a ‘dose response relationship.’ This means that the more frequent the peer victimization, the greater the likelihood was that a child went on to develop depression at 18 years. With this type of study we can never be certain about causality, but we believe our findings provide strong evidence that being bullied may lead to depression, with more frequent victimization increasing the odds of severe and persistent depression.”

Almost two-thirds of the people who reported being bullied frequently and being depressed indicated that the depression lasted over two years. The results were the same for males and females in the study. The study factored out other possible causes of depression, such as mental and behavioral problems, previous bullying in childhood, and stressful life and family events; the focus of the study was specifically on the relationship between bullying in teenage years and depression as adults.

Name-calling was the most common form of bullying followed by having possessions taken. Most of the bullied individuals did not report the bullying to an adult. Researchers indicate the study suggests that interventions to prevent bullying could lead to less depression later in life. Maria M. Ttofi from the University of Cambridge wrote the following, according to CBS News.

“Such substantial work should lead to further reflection about the need for early intervention. Effective anti-bullying programs can be seen as a form of public health promotion.”

As far as intervention methods to curtail bullying are concerned, Bowes stated that current research is evaluating which intervention methods might be the most effective, indicating the following.

“In general, it appears that the more intensive interventions that involve educating students and staff about bullying, and that increase parental involvement and communication with the school, are the most effective at reducing overall levels of bullying.”

Unfortunately, sometimes bullying is so extreme that teens take drastic measures to end their suffering. The death of 14-year-old Raymond Howell, Jr. was ruled a suicide. The McKinney Boyd High School, Texas, freshman’s body was found near a culvert beside busy Eldorado Parkway in McKinney. Friends and sources close to the family indicated that he had been bullied by older kids badly enough that he requested a transfer to another school, according to an article in the Inquisitr.

Hopefully, more interventions will take place so that fewer students suffer needlessly from bullying.

[Photo By Sean Gallup/Getty Images]