How Well Do We Understand the Long-Term Health Implications of Childhood Bullying?

Harv Rev Psychiatry. Mar/Apr 2017;25(2):89-95. doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000137.

Abstract

Once dismissed as an innocuous experience of childhood, bullying is now recognized as having significant psychological effects, particularly with chronic exposure. Victims of bullying are at risk for a number of psychiatric disturbances, and growing evidence suggests that the pathophysiological effects of bullying, as with other forms of trauma and chronic stress, create additional health risks. We review the literature on the known sequelae of bullying, including psychiatric and physiological health effects, with a focus on implications for the victim. In addition, since it is now well established that early and chronic exposure to stress has a significant negative impact on health outcomes, we explore the implications of this research in relation to bullying and victimization in childhood. In particular, we examine how aspects of the stress response, via epigenetic, inflammatory, and metabolic mediators, have the capacity to compromise mental and physical health, and to increase the risk of disease. Research on the relevant mechanisms associated with bullying and on potential interventions to decrease morbidity is urgently needed.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bullying*
  • Child
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*