In the US, 1.2% of children under 18 experience abuse (American Humane Association) and 77% of students experience bullying (bullyingstatistics.org). Abuse victims have entire organizations to advocate for their safety and well-being, while in 85% of bullying cases, no one intervenes (bullyingstatistics.org). But this makes sense because abuse is so much worse than bullying right? New research has found that the lasting effects of bullying may actually be worse than those of abuse.
Maltreatment was tracked until age 9 and then children were asked about bullying at ages 8, 10, and 13 and then mental health outcomes including anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies were assessed in early adulthood. Surprisingly, the results showed that bullying or bullying and maltreatment both increased the risk of mental health problems more than maltreatment alone. In fact, bullied participants were 4.9 times more likely than maltreated participants to develop an anxiety disorder.
If these outcomes are as dramatic as they are reported to be, the contribution bullying makes to mental illness cannot be ignored. Although the public has come a long way from thinking bullying is a harmless part of growing up, this research suggests that we need to be taking bullying even more seriously than we already are.