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Study Shows Children Are More Likely to Suffer Depression After Being Bullied

Mental health issues may surface years after childhood bullying. In a study that observed 3,525 people from age 10 to age 24, multiple risk factors were identified for depression, including childhood experiences like bullying. The research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry measured risk factors that included:

  • Postpartum depression in a participant’s mother
  • Spousal abuse between the participant’s parents when they were two to four years old
  • Anxiety in childhood at the age of eight
  • Bullying at the age of 10

Five symptoms of depression were found:

  1. Low, stable depression for 71.1%
  2. Limited, adolescent depression for 9.2%
  3. Limited, childhood depression for 5.8%
  4. Early-adult depression for 11.1%
  5. Persistent childhood depression for 2.8%

The findings found direct correlation in likelihood of depression with certain risk factors. All four risk factors measured were heightened by childhood bullying; meanwhile, childhood depression was most strongly associated with the risk factor of being bullied.

Does Bullying Lead to Depression?

Experts writing in The Journal of Adolescent Health define bullying as a consistent or chronic action in which a power imbalance exists and is leveraged to perform acts of physical or psychological harm.

According to this study, children who are bullied in childhood are eight times more likely to develop depression systems as an adult. Researchers writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood explain that bullying is not a behavioral disorder. They further found that victims of childhood bullying are at a higher risk for a variety of physical and mental health disorders:

  • Self-harm
  • Suicide
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression disorders
  • Colds
  • Headaches
  • Sleep issues
  • Smoking

Chronic bullying heightens these adverse effects. Children who bully, in addition to the victims, appear to be at a higher risk for physical and mental health disorders and are more likely to show delinquent behavior and violence in dating relationships in adolescence.

Anti-Bullying Resources

In addition to this latest research about the resurfacing of mental health issues years after bullying, multiple federal, state and local organizations work to bring awareness and eradicate bullying. If you or someone you know is either a bully or a victim of bullying, some of these resources may provide help.

The National Association of People Against Bullying is the larger body that sponsors Cool 2 Be Kind and has additional statistics and resources for school administrators and families.

Bullying, Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Bullying leads to mental health issues which can create additional issues in a person’s life, such as substance abuse. People who struggle with depression based on childhood trauma may be more likely to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

Substance abuse and depression is a dangerous combination, as people with major depressive or other depressive disorders are inclined to self-harm or even suicide. Next Generation Village offers a variety of resources for addiction issues, including rehabilitation and counseling services.


Aalsma, Matthew C. et al. “What is Bullying?” Journal of Adolescent Health, August 2008. Accessed August 24, 2019.

Kwong, Alex S.F. et al. “Genetic and Environmental Risk Factors Associated With Trajectories of Depression Symptoms From Adolescence to Young Adulthood.” Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, June 28, 2019. Accessed August 24, 2019.

Wolke, Dieter et al. “Long-term effects of bullying.” Archives of Disease in Childhood, September 2015. Accessed August 24, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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