Why Bullied Kids Are More Prone to Depression & Suicidal Tendencies - Even When They Grow Up
Science might be the key to understanding the devastating consequences of bullying thanks to a new study.
Researchers found that C-Reactive Protein (CRP) markers were higher in victims of bullying - even when they grew up - and that those who did the bullying (ie, the bullies) had CRP slightly half than that of the victim.
The researchers focused on CRP because it's a common, easily tested marker of inflammation, the runaway immune system activity that's a feature of many chronic illnesses including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic pain, and depression, explains lead author William Copeland, a psychologist and epidemiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
In the short term, the effect of bullying on the victims was immediate. CRP levels increased along with the number of reported bullying instances, and more than doubled in those who said they'd been bullied three times or more in the previous year, compared with kids who had never been bullied. No change was seen in bullies, or in kids who hadn't been involved with bullying one way or the other, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Perhaps interesting is that, although CRP increased in all groups over time, for the group who had not experienced "the bully effect" their markers remained lower even 10 years later, while those who had performed the bullying experienced slightly less CRP than half that of the victims.
The real eye opener, Copeland says, was the change in CRP in the 19- and 21-year-olds. Levels of the protein increased over time in all groups, which is normal. But the increase was sharper in the bullying victims: Even 10 years later, average CRP levels were still higher (more than 1.5 mg/L) than in those who had never been bullied (about 1 mg/L). In the bullies, the levels were about 0.5 mg/L, slightly less than half that of the victims. The CRP differences between bullies and victims remained even when the researchers accounted for potentially confounding factors, such as mental disorders, substance abuse, and other forms of stress.
The good news in this study is that it can be used as information that bullying is not simply a matter for childhood and that the consequences for bullied victims can have harmful long term health consequences.