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New study highlights long-term mental health impact of bullying

10/05/2017 Joanna

School students who are the victims of bullying are more likely to experience mental health problems over time, a new study has shown.

Research from the University of Delaware in the US has shed light on this trend, which highlight the importance of teachers doing all they can to prevent bullying, while also offering important insights into the mental state of pupils who are subjected to this kind of victimisation.

The study analysed data gathered from 4,297 students as they progressed through the equivalents of year six to 11 within the US schooling system, finding that those who were bullied in year six were more likely to have greater symptoms of depression by year eight, as well as becoming more likely to be using alcohol, cannabis or tobacco in year 11.

It was shown that boys, children with minority sexual identities and those living with chronic illnesses reported more frequent peer victimisation. Sexual minority status was more strongly related to alcohol use among girls than boys, and was also related to cannabis and tobacco use among girls, but not boys.

These are potentially significant findings, as it is known that substance use can harm adolescent development, with alcohol and cannabis interfering with brain development and leading to injuries, while tobacco use can lead to respiratory illness, cancer and early death.

The researchers concluded: "Peer victimisation really matters, and we need to take it seriously - this echoes the messages educators already have been receiving.

"This study gives some additional evidence as to why it's important to intervene. It also may give teachers insight into why students are depressed or using substances in middle and high school."

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