Being bullied at school has effects on the body that last for decades and can even shorten a person’s life, new research suggests.
Scientists found a significantly increased risk of stress-induced chronic inflammation in middle-aged men and women who had been bullied as children.
This, in turn, is known to increase the chances of having blocked arteries, leading to potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes.
In women, falling victim to childhood bullying was also found to raise the risk of being clinically obese in later life by about 40%.
The findings come from a major study of more than 7,000 Britons born in 1958 whose parents provided information about their children’s exposure to bullying at age seven and 11.
Data on blood inflammation markers and obesity were collected when the participants were aged 45.
Professor Louise Arseneault, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College, London, who co-led the study, said: “Our findings show that being bullied in childhood does get under your skin. We should move away from this idea that bullying is part of growing up and acceptable.
“Bullying is a part of growing up for many children from all social groups. While many important school programmes focus on preventing bullying behaviours, we tend to neglect the victims and their suffering.
“Our study implies that early interventions in support of the bullied children could not only limit psychological distress but also reduce physical health problems in adulthood.”
Previous research has linked bullying to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, poorer education and deficient social life.
The new study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, points to serious physical as well as psychological effects that can have a major impact on long-term health.
Among the study participants, 28% were bullied occasionally in childhood and 15% frequently.