Depression and Bullying

Michael D. Yapko, PhD., psychologist, depression expert, wrote this article in his June 17, 2015 newsletter on the link between being bullied, being a bully in teen years and depression in adulthood.


Teen Bullying Associated with Adult Depression

In a recent online article in the British Medical Journal (BMI, June 2, 2015), researcher Lucy Bowes conducted one of the largest long term studies on the relationship between being a victim of bullying at age 13 and depression at 18 years.

This was a longitudinal observational study using a UK community based birth cohort to identify the participants. Of the 6719 participants who reported bullying at age 13 years, there were data available on almost 4000 of these individuals addressing depression at age18.

Results indicated that there was almost a 30% chance that if a person was depressed at age 18 that it could be largely attributed to suffering bullying at an earlier age.

In 2013, a study was published in the U.S. that identified increased risks of psychiatric disorders on bullies only, victims only, and bullies and victims combined.

Rates of depression, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, panic disorder and suicidality were all elevated and bullies were at risk for antisocial personality disorder.

The researchers concluded, “The effects of being bullied are direct, pleiotropic, and long-lasting, with the worst effects for those who are both victims and bullies.”

The bottom line regarding these studies is that they are documenting what we already know about the association between early victimization and an increased risk of internalizing problems in childhood. As a result, without the proper skills to manage these episodes of victimization, the potential result is an increased population of depressed individuals.

Given the cost to the individual sufferer and the cost to society as a whole, these studies support the need to address bullying early on to help reduce the potential development of adult depression.

Michael has included a number of bullying-prevention resources on his website for those interested in making a difference in this arena.

Reference: Medscape Medical News June 12, 2015 by Megan Brooks

Original Article published online BMJ 2015;350:h2469

JAMA Psychiatry. 2013 Apr;70(4):419-26. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.504