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Research Brief: Childhood Bullying Linked to Adult Psychiatric Disorders

An isolated teenager walks alone.Duke University professors recently published research Site exit disclaimer that shows the degree to which bullying can affect someone’s mental health.

Authors Copeland, Wolke, Angold, and Costello discovered that victims of childhood bullying have a higher risk of developing mental health problems later in life. The study followed more than 1,000 youth, starting at the ages of 9, 11, and 13. The youth were interviewed each year until they turned 16. Follow-up interviews were then conducted into adulthood.

Results of the study showed bullying elevated the rate of mental health problems.  Some of the key findings were:

  • Youth who were victims of bullying had a higher chance of having agoraphobia, anxiety and panic disorders.
  • Youth who bullied were at risk for antisocial personality disorder. 
  • Youth who bullied who were also victims of bullying were at a higher risk for adult depression and panic disorder. For this group, there was an increased risk for agoraphobia in females and suicidality in males.

The link between bullying and mental illness is very real. This research brief only scratches the surface of this issue, and is not a synthesis of all mental health and bullying research. Bullying can have many different effects. Bullying is a serious problem for all involved and can have a lasting impact on someone’s entire life—but it doesn’t have to. You can help youth heal from the harmful effects of bullying.

A nationwide effort to “bring mental illness out of the shadows” has resulted in the launch of a new national dialogue on mental health including a new Federal website, MentalHealth.Gov.  Now is the time to start talking about mental health.

Learn how at MentalHealth.Gov.

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