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Study: Harm Lasts Long After Bullying Ends [AUDIO]

Addressing bullying immediately is the best way to prevent long-term health effects in victims, according to a recent study in the March issue of Pediatrics.

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The study found that the harm from bullying can continue long after the torment stops.  In fact, many people who have been bullied suffer with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem into adulthood.

“Almost everybody has a very strong recollection of things that happened to them or even things that they watched happen to others in their childhood and they feel a strong visceral reaction to that,” said Maurice Elias, psychology professor at Rutgers University. “So, it’s not surprising in the least that when we actually start to study instances of victimization that we see that the consequences last for quite a while.”

According to the study, 22 percent of students reported being bullied in the fifth grade and while the likelihood of being bullied declines as students got older, five percent reported being victimized in middle school and three percent suffered at the hands of a bully in 10th grade.

Those who were bullied in the past and present scored worse on a number of health measures including the following:

  • Psycho-social health (such as anger, fear and anxiety), 45 percent of 10th-graders bullied in both the past and present scored low compared with 31% of those bullied in the present only, 12 percent of those bullied in the past only and 7 percent of those never bullied.
  • Depression, 30 percent of 10th-graders bullied in the past and present exhibited the worst symptoms, compared with 19 percent of those bullied in the present only, 13 percent of those bullied in the past only and 8 percent never bullied.
  • Self-worth, 29 percent of 10th-graders bullied in the past and present had the lowest scores, compared with 20 percent of those bullied only in the present; 12 percent of those bullied only in the past and 8 percent who were not bullied.
  • Physical health (such as a student’s comfort with playing sports and being physically active), 30 percent of seventh-graders bullied in both the past and present scored low compared with 24 percent of those bullied in the present only, 15% of those bulled in the past only and 6 percent of those never bullied.

The current laws in New Jersey are helping to put a stop to bullying, according to Elias. But, more needs to be done.

“Ultimately, we want to put a stop to bullying. We want to focus on prevention and we want to know that our schools are safe places and that children can go to school without having something happen to them that can impact them for the rest of their lives,” he said. “Very well-meaning people inadvertently make the child who was victimized feel like there was something they could’ve done either by being more assertive, speaking up or hitting the person back. Those are the kinds of things that can plant significant seeds of doubt and make a child feel like they somehow brought this upon themselves.”

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