February 18, 2014: Laura Bogart, at left, associate proessor of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital, is the lead author of a study published yesterday in Pediatrics that reports bullying -- particularly if it is continuous over a period of more than one grade, creates problems in a child's physical and mental health even years later. The study also found that children who identify as gay or lesbian, or who are overweight, suffer the most bullying.
Psychological measures included negative emotions such as anger and depression. "We were able to show that these effects of bullying snowballed and compounded over time," Bogart says.
As reported in CNN's blog, "The Chart," over 4,200 public school students from Los Angeles, Houston and Birmingham, Alabam, and their parents participated in all three phases of the study.
More than 60% had household incomes of less than $50,000 a year, and less than half of parents had a high school degree or lower, suggesting a high proportion of participants from low socioeconomic status.
The children and their parents responded to computer-assisted personal interviews in English or Spanish. The first round took place in fifth grade; the next came two years later, when nearly all the kids were in seventh grade, and then three years after that, when almost everyone was in 10th grade...
Researchers found particularly striking differences in mental health when comparing children who had been bullied with those who had not. Among fifth-graders, about 4% of kids who had not been bullied showed low psychological health, far less than the 31% of kids who had been bullied.
In later years, researchers found a strong relationship between low psychological health and bullying, especially among children who said they were being bullied at that time, or both at that time and in the past.
Writing in "Thriving," the blog of the Boston Children's Pediatric Hospital, Tripp Underwood noted:
... of the students who said they’ve never been bullied, only 6.5% had very poor mental health.
That number jumped to 12% among children who had been bullied in the past, pushed ahead to 30.7% for kids currently experiencing bullying and skyrocketed to 44.6% for the kids who had been continually bullied for years. Children who experienced chronic bullying also were more likely to have problems with physical activities like walking, running or participating in sports.
“Our research shows that long-term bullying has a serious impact on a person’s overall health, and its negative effects can accumulate and worsen with time,” says Bogart...
"What these results show are a strong argument for an immediate intervention, early intervention, before the effects of bullying can get too serious for mental and physical health," Bogart said.