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Childhood Bullying Affects Health in Adulthood

A new study has found that bullied kids have higher inflammation levels as young adults than their uninvolved classmates. Even if bullying stops after middle or high school, more evidence from recent studies show that the effects of bullying on health is long term.

Kids who are bullied tend to be sick more often than their peers and may have stomachaches, sleep problems, headaches and loss of appetite, researchers write in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of  The United States of America.

Researchers followed 1,420 kids from age 9 until 21, interviewing them and their mothers along the way about bullying involvement. Researchers took blood samples from the children every year or two for about two decades.

“Our findings look at the biological consequences of bullying, and by studying a marker of inflammation, provide a potential mechanism for how this social interaction can affect later health functioning,” says the study’s lead author, William E. Copeland, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, to “Among victims of bullying, there seems to be some impact on health status in adulthood. In this study, we asked whether childhood bullying can get ‘under the skin’ to affect physical health.”

The participants were divided into three groups, those who were bullied; those who were bullies; and those who were both bullied and bullies. The level of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a marker of low-grade inflammation, had increased in all three groups during adulthood. However, the CRP levels were the highest for adults who were bullied as children.

Higher levels of this protein could be an indicator for cardiovascular disease.

On the flip side, the bullies had the lowest levels of CRPs, suggesting that this type of activity could be a preventative factor of inflammation.

“Enhanced social status seems to have a biological advantage. However, there are ways children can experience social success aside from bullying others,” says Copeland.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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