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Psychological and physical consequences

Bullying can cause serious problems in children. The psychological harm done can be long term, such as depression - where constant mind games and little faith in the future are prominent symptoms, as are post-traumatic symptoms such as avoidance and anxiety.

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Psychological consequences of bullying are described in an article about bullying and PTSD symptoms (Idsøe, Dyregron & Idsøe, 2014). When it comes to physical consequences, recent research shows that many children also suffer from physical ailments after being bullied, resulting in health consequences later on in life.

In one study, 1,420 children aged 9 to 21 years were followed over time and the effects of bullying were examined. The study was conducted at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina (Copeland, et.al., 2014).

The children and their mothers were interviewed several times regarding bullying and blood tests and medical examinations were conducted. The level of C-reactive protein was measured in the blood samples. This protein is a marker that often measures body inflammation level (low-grade systemic inflammation) and can be affected by various environmental factors.

The findings showed that the C-reactive protein level rose for every one as they got older, but higher levels of inflammation were documented in the children who had been bullied. What implications does this have for kids who are being bullied?

The more often the children had been bullied, the higher the inflammation level over time. Scientists believe that if children get inflammation in their body, it can lead to chronic inflammation, which may lead to the risk of serious health problems in the long term, such as diabetes or heart disease. Inflammation level was heightened because of bullying and therefore children can become sicker in adulthood.

What were the results for those who were bullies? The study found that children who bullied, without being bullied themselves, had less inflammation over time than children who have not been involved in any bullying. It reflected that children who were bullies increased their social status and got better health over time.

The authors believe that it is important to take these findings seriously when facilitating measures. The results show that a child's role in bullying may be a risk and a protective factor for the development of inflammation. For children who are bullied, the results show that they get a weaker health in the long term.

Text: Associate professor Klara Øverland