SOURCE: The Lancet Psychiatry, news release, April 28, 2015
TUESDAY, April 28, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Being bullied as a child may take a larger toll on a young adult's mental health than being abused or neglected at home, a new study suggests.
Kids who are the victims of bullies are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and to try to hurt themselves as young adults than children who were mistreated by adults, British researchers found.
"Until now, governments have focused their efforts and resources on family maltreatment rather than bullying," study author Dieter Wolke, from the University of Warwick, said in a journal news release.
"Since one in three children worldwide report being bullied, and it is clear that bullied children have similar or worse mental health problems later in life to those who are maltreated, more needs to be done to address this imbalance. Moreover, it is vital that schools, health services, and other agencies work together to tackle bullying," Wolke said.
The research involved information on the mistreatment of more than 4,000 children between the ages of 8 weeks and 8 years from the United Kingdom. These children also provided information on bullying when they were 8, 10 and 13. years old The study also included reports on bullying from nearly 1,500 children between the ages of 9 and 16 from the United States.
Children who were bullied by their peers were about five times more likely to develop anxiety compared to those who were mistreated by their parents or other adults. Kids who were bullied were also nearly twice as likely to self-harm and have more symptoms of depression at 18 as those who had been mistreated by adults, the study found.
The study authors pointed out the lasting effects of bullying remained even after other risk factors were considered, such as family hardships or the mothers' mental health.
The findings were to be presented Tuesday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego. The study will be published online simultaneously in The Lancet Psychiatry.
The American Psychological Association provides more information on the effects of bullying.