Bullying and Its Effects in Society Research Paper

Bullying may occur at the workplace, schools, homes, and/or any other social setting. Research on bullying mainly focuses on its effects on people who have witnessed it. For example, Stop Bullying (2014) confirms that harassment affects people’s creativity levels, reduces morale, may cause accidents, influences moral and ethical judgment capacity, and/or hinders people from realizing their full potential in their areas of talent.

Forero, McLellan, Rissel, and Bauman (2009) confirm that bullying is expressed in the form of sexual harassment, verbal abuse, physical torture, and psychological torture. It has the implications of making children fail to attend schools. Besides lowering employee productivity, it makes people treat others as objects. Typical examples of world bullies include Hitler and Stalin. The effects of bullying on the society are not well studied. For this reason, this paper objects to conduct a mixed research study on the implications of bullying.

Problem Statement

Cases of maltreatment are rampant in administrative centers and even learning institutions that accommodate people from diverse backgrounds. To overcome the challenges of harassment, it is important to establish how the society sees the problem so that possible solutions can be developed to address specific issues that are associated with it.

Without this plan, any solution to overcome bullying lacks validity and reliability. Students in schools and workers in their workplaces need a good environment to not only converse, but also to participate in teamwork for them to lead productive lives. Bullying leaders may hinder this expectation, thus making it necessary to have tangible known effects of bullying in societal settings to facilitate the development of appropriate policies to manage it.

The purpose of any research is to specify the primary thing that it aims to achieve. The proposed research will identify the effects of bullying in schools, homes, and workplaces. This information will help in the formulation of policies to manage it within these social settings.

The primary objective of the proposed research encompasses studying the effects of bullying in schools, homes, and in workplaces. The paper conducts primary and an intensive secondary research on the same issue. Secondary research is critical in the development of a background to the research, which helps in determining the validity of the problem and suggested research methodologies.

This section is critical in ensuring that the primary research will not settle on research methodologies of research and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data that may not yield any tangible findings to guide the development of policies for mitigating the bullying problem in the society.

Research Questions

The research will focus on two research questions:

  • What does the US society consider the impacts of bullying in schools, homes, and workplaces?
  • Do the societies have potential solutions to the problems?

The scope of the proposed research will be on the US societies. The focus will be narrowed to workplaces, schools, and homes. Since it is impossible to collect data from all states in the US due to time and monetary limitations, the focus will only be in the state of California. As noted in the limitations section, this limited scope introduces challenges of generalization of results.

Significance of the Study

The proposed study will be significant in addressing the problems of bullying in the society. It will lay a fundamental background on the process of developing policies for managing it. Government and organizations develop policies that are necessary for achieving certain strategic goals and objectives. Efforts to solve particular problems that attract public concerns create the necessity to formulate and implement public policies.

Public policy constitutes an action that a government deems appropriate and/or inappropriate for the people it serves. It encompasses a set of aims coupled with specified group of activities, which when properly executed resolve a particular public problem. In the context of the proposed research, bullying is a public problem since it has negative implications on the society as stated in the background section.


The study will be conducted within state of California. Consequently, the findings are only applicable within the geographical region. However, since the goal of the study is to establish the effects of bullying in the US, an assumption is made that the research findings will correlate with other states and counties across the US.

This claim implies that research will assume that the findings will be generalizable so that they have both internal and external validity. The method that is utilized in a qualitative research needs to aid researchers to attain optimal levels of validity of their research for their work to add a significant knowledge to the body of knowledge they seek to amplify. The research will assume that its variables are a valid mechanism of measuring the problem of bullying in the state of California.

Limitations and Delimitations

Based on the assumptions of the study, it has the limitation of generalization of the results. This gap may introduce problems of validity and reliability. However, an effort is made to first establish a theoretical background that is informed by a wide range of scholarly researches in different geographical regions so that if the findings that are established within California correlate with other findings, the results become possible to generalize.

The theoretical background draws from secondary researches. Since these researches were conducted in the past, the applicability of the findings in the present geographical region of study presents some limitations. However, the primary research that is done using qualitative and quantitative data helps to resolve this problem.

Definition of Key Concepts

Reliability – Refers to the degree to which research variables and findings respond to the problem under research.

Bullying – This element encompasses any unwanted dominance or aggressive behaviors that are exercised over an individual at home, school, workplace, or any other social setting due to power imbalances. Powerful individuals normally direct it to the less powerful people.

Validity – The term refers to the “best approximation to the truth or falsity of proportions” (Rolfe, 2006, p.307).

Internal validity – The term refers to the degree of truth of various claims that are raised in the research and the existing variables.

External validity – Refers to the “extent to which one can generalize findings” (Cohen & Crabtree, 2008, p.333).

Literature Review

Various institutions bring together people from different backgrounds. For instance, schools bring together people from different socio-economic backgrounds and culture. Such people also have different physical, mental, and cognitive abilities.

Similar to schools, workplaces also have people who have different capabilities. In homes, different members of either nuclear or extended families have different powers of control. Irrespective of the institution, people may use their power inappropriately to bully those who have less power over their control or influence.

How Bullying affects the Society

Bullying denies people their rights of equity and equality in terms of participation in societal processes. Equality refers to a state of an affair in which people in a society or even isolated groups of people possess a similar status with reference to some certain respects. Social equality means possessing equal rights as stipulated by the law on property rights, freedom of speech, equal access to public social goods and public services, assembly rights, and voting rights.

Equality also means wellbeing impartiality, public safety fairness, and financial justice (Thorvaldur & Zoega, 2011). When organizations, schools, or homes have bullies, less powerful people develop a perception that they are less capable relative to people who control their life. Consequently, the bullied individuals loose equity and equality rights.

Bullying hinders the embracement of gains of diversity in organizations, especially when it exists along ethnic, racial, or gender demographic attributes. Diversity refers to the differences that are witnessed among people within an organization such as different religious and moral believes. It also includes professional and ability differences akin to people’s diverse gender, ethnic origin, racial background, sexuality, and age among other characteristics.

People have the right of access to quality public goods. Living in a bully-free social setting means the prevention of infringement of people’s freedoms (Hudson, 2009). Rights apply without discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. When one person dominates another person or influences his or her decision-making process akin to the perception of superiority, bullying is experienced.

Although they may seem like simple acts, some types of discrimination may amount to psychological torture or bullying. Discriminatory practices are those that segregate the quality of public goods such as healthcare and education, depending on characteristics such as ethnicity, race, sexuality, disability, gender, age, and nationality among others. The private sector may also explore discriminatory practices.

For example, a fast food organization explores discriminatory practices if it offers different eating areas for people from different racial backgrounds. It can also demonstrate segregation if it chooses to offer different foods and services qualities to such people. As such, some individuals determine where to seat, what to eat, how fast to eat, and the nature of the delivered service.

This observation amounts to bullying. Stop Bullying (2014) recommends social institutions to explore policies that enhance equality, diversity, and rights of all people, despite their demographic and psychographic differences. This situation constitutes an amicable strategy for overcoming bullying in the society.

Importance of Stopping Bullying

Every society needs to stop bullying since it has negative effects. It creates a sense of inferiority, which may hinder innovation and creativity in an organizational setting. Innovation means the introduction of a new business element that can be implemented to improve sales volume. In the business settings, innovation takes place in the form of introduction of new products, services, or technologies.

In the manufacturing context, innovation involves the introduction of new manufacturing processes and practices, new technologies, and new materials among other things, which help to lower the costs of production or increase the pace of production and quality of the manufactured products.

The process of innovation requires the participation of people in developing new ideas or new ways of doing things. Bullying makes it impossible for junior or less powerful people to present their ideas to the organizational management due to their perception of inferiority complex. In such a situation, an organization loses an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage due to power imbalances among its employees.

As revealed before, bullying needs to stop as it erodes people’s equity and equality rights. It also has physical, mental, and cognitive negative impacts on people who experience it. Polanin, Espelage, and Pigott (2012) assert, “Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes, including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide” (p.91).

It influences all people, including those who witness it and/or those who experience it. In school settings, bully pupils and students increase their exposure to risk of abuse of alcohol during their adolescent stage, smoking, and engagement in other defiant behaviors. They also vandalize property, engage in fights, and/or have a high probability of dropping out of school (Polanin et al., 2012). They are more likely to face convictions, abuse their partners, children, and even other adults at their adulthood.

Children who witness bullying have a high likelihood of abusing drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. They risk suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental problems (Polanin et al., 2012). In fear of bullying, they also have high absenteeism rates. In workplaces, bullied workers have high turnover rates, low productivity, and less motivation.

They fear defending their own rights before their bullies. At home, bullied individual have poor participation in communication, live in fear, and anxiety. In some situations, they suffer from depression. To overcome all these problems, it is necessary to stop bullying in all social settings.

Types of Bullying, their Consequences, and Prevalence Levels in the US

Bullying may take several forms. Workplace bullying occurs within organizations and other places of work. Workplace bullying mainly influences new employees. It manifests itself in the form of blackmailing, humiliation, rejection by work peers, threats, and intimidations. This type of bullying causes low employee productivity.

Although there lacks accurate statistics on its prevalence in the US, stop Bullying (2014) approximates that workplace bullying lowers the productivity of an individual by up to 60%. Home-based bullying has the consequences of inducing fear for one’s partner or spouse and children. Children who experience this type of bullying have low concentration levels in schools. Besides, they experience low levels of cognitive development.

School-based bullying is perhaps the most common form of bullying in the US. A study by Nansel et al. (2011) reveals that between 15% and 20% of students reported being bullied over a period of one term. This prevalence level is lower compared to other places of the world. For example, Nansel et al. (2011) confirm that some countries record up to 70% students who claim to have experienced bullying. In schools across the globe, many cases of frequent bullying have been reported while other cases have occurred at least once in a week.

For example, research on a Malta sample indicated a 19% prevalence level while a sample on Irish school bullying reported a 1.9% prevalence level (Forero et al., 2009). The types of bulling may take the form of physical aggression, verbal abuse, name-calling, threats, and even rejections. It is important to note that most researches on bullying have been done in Australia and Europe (Nansel et al., 2011).

This finding creates a room for conducting similar researches in the US. Any place that creates a room for bullying needs to be investigated to determine the elements that attract such bullying cases. Therefore, this research will offer a working platform of determining such places in an attempt to come up with the best methods or strategies of fighting such evils.


Various scholars prescribe certain characteristics that a qualitative research must meet for results and recommendations to arrive at an effective resolution of the stated problem. For this reason, the methodology that is deployed in the research needs to have some specific characteristics. They include “credibility, reliability, use of rigorous methods and verification, validity and clarity, and coherence in reporting among others” (Cohen & Crabtree, 2008, p. 331).

A research can be designed as one of the four main approaches, viz. qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods (pragmatic approach), and emancipator approach (participatory or advocacy approach). In this research, pragmatic approach is utilized. Freshwater, Sherwood, and Drury (2006) posit, “Pragmatic researchers grant themselves the freedom to use any of the methods, techniques, and procedures that are typically associated with quantitative or qualitative research” (p.295).

The freedom of choice of method depends on the researchers’ perception and evaluation of methods that best suit the particular kind of research they are conducting. The best choice is the one that utilizes methodologies that complement one another. This aspect forms the basic logic for designing this research to use pragmatic approach that deploys aspects of both quantitative and qualitative research.

For the methodology of any qualitative research to be effective, it deserves to demonstrate various features or criteria for excellence as established by the preceding assessment criteria. However, such research designs have problems of validity.

Qualitative research lacks validity “because of the necessity to incorporate rigor and subjectivity as well as creativity into scientific process” (Whittermore, Chase & Mandle, 2001, p.522). Rigor is crucial for a systematic qualitative research (Finlay, 2006). The data that is adopted only needs to make use of particular criteria to establish relationships or differences. The proposed research establishes the prevalence of bullying in California. Besides, it determines the perception of its effects on the society.

The research will use questionnaire as the primary data collection tool. The independent variable is the perception and recognition of the existence of bullying in workplaces, schools, and homes within California.

The dependent variable is its effects and problems on the society (schools, homes and workplaces). Some questions that require qualitative information will also be used to help in the provision of data on specific perceptions about the effect of bullying in the society. Ten questions will be used to capture the aspects people’s experiences with bullying in schools, home, and workplaces as shown appendix 1.

Nine hundred copies of questionnaires will be distributed without selecting certain demographic characteristics of people who receive the questionnaires. Respondents will have to indicate these characteristics in the questionnaires. It will be expected that all the 900 people will answer all questions in the questionnaires promptly. Hence, no questionnaire is anticipated to be rejected.

Data will be analyzed through computations of percentages of responses for each question in the questionnaire. These results will then be used to conduct an analysis of people’s perception and recognition of the impacts of bullying in workplaces, homes, and in schools.

Reference List

Cohen, D., & Crabtree, B. (2008). Evaluative Criteria for Qualitative Research in Health Care: Controversies and Recommendations . Criteria for Qualitative Research, 6 (4), 331-339.

Finlay, L. (2006). Rigor, Ethical Integrity or Artistry” Reflexively Reviewing Criteria For Evaluating Qualitative Research. British Journal of occupational Therapy, 69 (7), 319-326.

Forero, R., McLellan, L., Rissel, C., & Bauman, A. (2009). Bullying behavior and psychosocial health among school students in New South Wales, Australia: cross sectional survey. BMJ, 319 (7), 344–348.

Freshwater, D., Sherwood, G., & Drury, V. (2006). International research collaboration: Issues, benefits and challenges of the global network. Journal of Research in marketing, 11 (4), 295-303.

Hudson, D. (2009). The Right to Privacy . New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.

Nansel, T., Overpeck, M., Pila, R., Ruan, R., Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2011). Bullying behaviors’ among US youth: prevalence and association with psychological adjustment. JAMA, 285 (16), 2094-2100.

Polanin, J., Espelage, L., & Pigott, T. (2012). A meta-analysis of school-based bullying prevention programs’ effects on bystander intervention behavior and empathy attitude. School Psychology Review, 41 (1), 89-97.

Rolfe, G. (2006). Validity, trustworthiness and rigor: quality and the idea of qualitative research. Journal of Advanced Marketing Research, 53 (3), 304-310.

Stop Bullying. (2014). Facts about Bullying . Web.

Thorvaldur, G., & Zoega, G. (2011). Educational Social Equity and Economic Growth: A View of the Landscape. CESifo Economic Studies, 49 (4), 557–579.

Whittermore, R., Chase, S., & Mandle, C. (2001). Validity in Qualitative Research. Qualitative health research, 11 (4), 522-537.

  • Working in an organization
  • Physical assault
  • Abuse language
  • Denial of work privileges
  • Molestation
  • Any other, specify
  • Sought for psychological help
  • Others (Specify)
  • If your answer to question 4 is NO, what prevented you from seeking help? Specify
  • Why do you thing bullying is inappropriate?
  • What do you think the state of California should do to address the kind of bullying you have experienced?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2024, February 19). Bullying and Its Effects in Society. https://ivypanda.com/essays/bullying-and-its-effects-in-society/

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  • Bullying and Suicide: The Correlation Between Bullying and Suicide
  • The Problem of Bullying
  • Bullying in School
  • Bullying and Its Impact
  • Cyber Bullying and Its Forms
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  • Dealing With Workplace Bullying
  • Nature of Bullying
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Grant Hilary Brenner MD, DFAPA

The Broad Impact of School Bullying, and What Must Be Done

Major interventions are required to make schools safe learning environments..

Posted May 2, 2021 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano

  • How to Handle Bullying
  • Find a therapist to support kids or teens
  • At least one in five kids is bullied, and a significant percentage are bullies. Both are negatively affected, as are bystanders.
  • Bullying is an epidemic that is not showing signs of improvement.
  • Evidence-based bullying prevention programs can be effective, but school adoption is inconsistent.

According to the U.S. federal government website StopBullying.gov :

There is no federal law that specifically applies to bullying . In some cases, when bullying is based on race or ethnicity , color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion, bullying overlaps with harassment and schools are legally obligated to address it.

The National Bullying Prevention Center reports data suggesting that one in five children have been bullied. There are many risk factors for being targeted, including being seen as weak, being different from peers including being LGBT or having learning differences or visible disabilities, being depressed or anxious, and having few friends. It's hard to measure how many engage in bullying, but estimates range from one in twenty, to much higher .

The American Association of University Women reports that in grades 7-12, 48 percent of students (56 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys) are sexually harassed. In college, rates of sexual harassment rise to 66 percent. Eleven percent are raped or sexually assaulted.

Silence facilitates traumatization

Only 20 percent of attacked young women report sexual assault . And 89 percent of undergraduate schools report zero sexual harassment. This means that children, adolescents, young adults and their friends are at high risk for being victimized. It means that many kids know what is happening, and don't do anything.

This may be from fear of retaliation and socialization into a trauma-permissive culture, and it may be from lack of proper education and training. Institutional betrayal , when organizations fail to uphold their promises and responsibilities, adds to the problem.

In some states such as New York, laws like “ the Dignity for All Students Act ” (DASA) apply only to public schools. Private, religious, and denominational schools are not included, leaving 20 percent of students in NYC and 10 percent throughout the state unprotected. Research shows that over the last decade, bullying in U.S. high schools has held steady around 20 percent, and 15 percent for cyberbullying.

The impact of bullying

While there is much research on how bullying affects mental health, social function, and academics, the results are scattered across dozens of papers. A recent paper in the Journal of School Violence (Halliday et al., 2021) presents a needed systematic literature review on bullying’s impact in children aged 10-18.

1. Psychological: Being a victim of bullying was associated with increased depression , anxiety , and psychosis . Victims of bullying reported more suicidal thinking and engaged in greater self-harming behaviors. They were more likely to experience social anxiety , body-image issues, and negative conduct. Simultaneous cyberbullying and conventional bullying were associated with more severe depression.

2. Social: Bullying victims reported greater problems in relationships with family, friends and in day-to-day social interactions. They reported they enjoyed time with family and friends less, felt they were being treated unfairly more easily, and liked less where they lived. Victimized children were less popular and likeable, and experienced more social rejection. They tended to be friends with other victims, potentially heightening problems while also providing social support.

3. Academic achievement: Victimized kids on average had lower grades. Over time, they did worse especially in math. They tended to be more proficient readers, perhaps as a result of turning to books for comfort in isolation (something people with a history of being bullied commonly report in therapy ).

effects of bullying on society essay

4. School attitudes: Bullied children and adolescents were less engaged in education, had poorer attendance, felt less belonging, and felt more negatively about school.

5. What happens with age? Researchers studied adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying, looking at both victims and bullies, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry (Copeland et al., 2013). After controlling for other childhood hardships, researchers found that young adults experience increased rates of agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house), generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and increased depression risk. Men had higher suicide risk.

The impact of bullying does not stop in early adulthood. Research in the Journals of Gerontology (Hu, 2021) found that people over the age of 60 who were bullied as children had more severe depression and had lower life satisfaction.

6. Bullying and the brain: Work reported in Frontiers in Psychiatry (Muetzel et al., 2019) found that victims of bullying had thickening of the fusiform gyrus, an area of the cerebral cortex involved with facial recognition, and sensing emotions from facial expressions. 1 For those with posttraumatic stress disorder, brain changes may be extensive.

7. Bystanders are affected: Research also shows that bystanders have higher rates of anxiety and depression (Midgett et al., 2019). The problem is magnified for bystanders who are also victims. It is likely that taking appropriate action is protective.

Given that victims of bullying are at risk for posttraumatic stress disorder ( PTSD ; Idsoe et al., 2012), it’s important to understand that many of the reported psychiatric findings may be better explained by PTSD than as a handful of overlapping but separate diagnoses. Trauma often goes unrecognized.

What can be done?

The psychosocial and academic costs of unmitigated bullying are astronomical, to say nothing of the considerable economic cost. Change is needed, but resistance to change, as with racism, gender bias, and other forms of discrimination , is built into how we see things.

Legislation: There is no federal antibullying legislation, and state laws may be weak and inconsistently applied. Given that bullying rates are no longer falling, it’s important for lawmakers and advocates to seek immediate changes.

Bullying prevention: Schools can adopt antibullying programs, though they are not universally effective and sometimes may backfire. Overall, however, research in JAMA Pediatrics (Fraguas et al., 2021) shows that antibullying programs reduce bullying, improve mental health outcomes, and stay effective over time. 2

Trauma-informed education creates an environment in which all participants are aware of the impact of childhood trauma and the need for specific modifications given how trauma is common among children and how it affects development.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN):

"The primary mission of schools is to support students in educational achievement. To reach this goal, children must feel safe, supported, and ready to learn. Children exposed to violence and trauma may not feel safe or ready to learn. Not only are individual children affected by traumatic experiences, but other students, the adults on campus, and the school community can be impacted by interacting or working with a child who has experienced trauma. Thus, as schools maintain their critical focus on education and achievement, they must also acknowledge that mental health and wellness are innately connected to students’ success in the classroom and to a thriving school environment."

Parenting makes a difference. Certain parenting styles may set kids up for emotional abuse in relationships , while others may be protective. A 2019 study reported in Frontiers in Public Health (Plexousakis et al.) found that children with anxious, overprotective mothers were more likely to be victims.

Those with cold or detached mothers were more likely to become bullies. Overprotective fathering was associated with worse PTSD symptoms, likely by getting in the way of socialization. The children of overprotective fathers were also more likely to be aggressive.

Quality parental bonding, however, appeared to help protect children from PTSD symptoms. A healthy home environment is essential both for helping victims of bullying and preventing bullying in at-risk children.

Parents who recognize the need to learn more positive approaches can help buffer again the all-too-common cycle of passing trauma from generation to generation, building resilience and nurturing secure attachment to enjoy better family experiences and equip children to thrive.

State-by-state legislation

Bullying prevention programs (the KiVA program is also notable)

Measuring Bullying Victimization, Perpetration and Bystander Experiences , Centers for Disease Control

Trauma-informed teaching

US Government Stop Bullying

1. Such differences could both result from being bullied (e.g. needing to scan faces for threat) and could also make being bullied more likely (e.g. misreading social cues leading to increased risk of being targeted).

2. Such programs focus on reducing negative messaging in order to keep stakeholders engaged, monitor and respond quickly to bullying, involve students in bullying prevention and detection in positive ways (e.g. being an “upstander” instead of a bystander), monitor more closely for bullying when the risk is higher (e.g. after anti-bullying trainings), respond fairly with the understanding that bullies often have problems of their own and need help, involved parents and teachers in anti-bullying education, and devote specific resources for anti-bullying.

Sarah Halliday, Tess Gregory, Amanda Taylor, Christianna Digenis & Deborah Turnbull (2021): The Impact of Bullying Victimization in Early Adolescence on Subsequent Psychosocial and Academic Outcomes across the Adolescent Period: A Systematic Review, Journal of School Violence, DOI: 10.1080/15388220.2021.1913598

Copeland WE, Wolke D, Angold A, Costello EJ. Adult Psychiatric Outcomes of Bullying and Being Bullied by Peers in Childhood and Adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(4):419–426. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.504

Bo Hu, PhD, Is Bullying Victimization in Childhood Associated With Mental Health in Old Age, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 76, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages 161–172, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbz115

Muetzel RL, Mulder RH, Lamballais S, Cortes Hidalgo AP, Jansen P, Güroğlu B, Vernooiji MW, Hillegers M, White T, El Marroun H and Tiemeier H (2019) Frequent Bullying Involvement and Brain Morphology in Children. Front. Psychiatry 10:696. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00696

Midgett, A., Doumas, D.M. Witnessing Bullying at School: The Association Between Being a Bystander and Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms. School Mental Health 11, 454–463 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-019-09312-6

Idsoe, T., Dyregrov, A. & Idsoe, E.C. Bullying and PTSD Symptoms. J Abnorm Child Psychol 40, 901–911 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-012-9620-0

Fraguas D, Díaz-Caneja CM, Ayora M, Durán-Cutilla M, Abregú-Crespo R, Ezquiaga-Bravo I, Martín-Babarro J, Arango C. Assessment of School Anti-Bullying Interventions: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA Pediatr. 2021 Jan 1;175(1):44-55. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.3541. PMID: 33136156; PMCID: PMC7607493.

Plexousakis SS, Kourkoutas E, Giovazolias T, Chatira K and Nikolopoulos D (2019) School Bullying and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: The Role of Parental Bonding. Front. Public Health 7:75. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2019.00075

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Grant Hilary Brenner MD, DFAPA

Grant Hilary Brenner, M.D., a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, helps adults with mood and anxiety conditions, and works on many levels to help unleash their full capacities and live and love well.

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  • Research Resources

Consequences of Bullying


It is important for parents and people who work with children and adolescents to understand that bullying can have both short- and long-term effects on everyone involved. While most research on bullying has been about children and adolescents who have been bullied, those who bully others are also negatively impacted, as are those who are both bullied and bully others, and even those who are not directly involved but witness bullying.

Children Who Have Been Bullied

Research has found that children and adolescents who have been bullied can experience negative psychological, physical, and academic effects.

Psychological Effects

Consequences of bullying

The psychological effects of bullying include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-harming behavior (especially for girls), alcohol and drug use and dependence, aggression, and involvement in violence or crime (especially for boys). While bullying can lead to mental health problems for any child, those who already have mental health difficulties are even more likely to be bullied and to experience its negative effects.

Cyberbullying – bullying that happens with computers or mobile devices – has also been linked to mental health problems. Compared with peers who were not cyberbullied, children who were cyberbullied report higher levels of depression and thoughts of suicide, as well as greater emotional distress, hostility, and delinquency.

Physical Effects

Bullying and Suicide

Bullying is a risk factor for depression and thinking about suicide. Children who bully others, are bullied, or both bully and are bullied are more likely to think about or attempt suicide than those who are not involved in bullying at all.

The physical effects of bullying can be obvious and immediate, such as being injured from a physical attack. However, the ongoing stress and trauma of being bullied can also lead to physical problems over time. A child who is bullied could develop sleep disorders - such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep - stomachaches, headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness, bedwetting, and chronic pain and somatization (i.e., a syndrome of distressful, physical symptoms that cannot be explained by a medical cause).

Being bullied also increases cortisol levels – a stress hormone – in the body, which typically happens after a stressful event. Stress from bullying can impact the immune system and hormones. Imaging studies show that brain activity and functioning can be affected by bullying, which may help explain the behavior of children who have been bullied.

Academic Effects

Research has consistently shown that bullying can have a negative impact on how well children and adolescents do in school. It has a negative impact on both grades and standardized test scores starting as early as kindergarten and continuing through high school.

Children Who Bully and Those Who Witness Bullying

Very little research has been done to understand the effects of bullying on children who bully, and those who witness bullying (e.g., bystanders). More research is needed to understand the consequences of bullying on the individuals who bully others, particularly to understand the differences between those who are generally aggressive and those who bully others.

Studies of children who witness bullying usually focus on their role in the bullying situation (e.g., if they backed up the child who bullied, or defended the victim) and why they did or did not intervene. While studies rarely assess the effects of bullying exposure on the witness, some research has found that bullying witnesses experience anxiety and insecurity based on their own fears of retaliation.

Children Who Bully and Are Also Bullied

Children and adolescents who bully others and who are also bullied are at the greatest risk for negative mental and physical health consequences, compared to those who only bully or are only being bullied. These children and adolescents may experience a combination of psychological problems, a negative perception of themselves and others, poor social skills, conduct problems, and rejection by their peer group.

Compared with non-involved peers, those who have bullied others and have also been bullied have been found to be at increased risk for serious mental illness, be at high risk for thinking about and attempting suicide, and demonstrate heightened aggression.

Exposure to bullying in any manner – by being bullied, bullying others, or witnessing peers being bullied – has long-term, negative effects on children. The School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey found that in 2015, about 21 percent of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school during the school year. Given the prevalence of youth exposed to bullying across the nation, it is important to understand the consequences of bullying on children and adolescents, how it relates to other violent behaviors and mental health challenges, in order to effectively address them.

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Source and Research Limitations

The information discussed in this fact sheet is based on the comprehensive review of bullying research presented in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s report entitled Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice .

This report includes the most up to date research on bullying, but it is important to note that this research has several important limitations. Most of the research is cross-sectional, which means it took place at one point in time. This type of research shows us what things are related to each other at that time, but cannot tell us which thing came first or if one of those things caused the other to occur.

  • Research article
  • Open access
  • Published: 14 December 2021

Bullying at school and mental health problems among adolescents: a repeated cross-sectional study

  • Håkan Källmén 1 &
  • Mats Hallgren   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0599-2403 2  

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health volume  15 , Article number:  74 ( 2021 ) Cite this article

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To examine recent trends in bullying and mental health problems among adolescents and the association between them.

A questionnaire measuring mental health problems, bullying at school, socio-economic status, and the school environment was distributed to all secondary school students aged 15 (school-year 9) and 18 (school-year 11) in Stockholm during 2014, 2018, and 2020 (n = 32,722). Associations between bullying and mental health problems were assessed using logistic regression analyses adjusting for relevant demographic, socio-economic, and school-related factors.

The prevalence of bullying remained stable and was highest among girls in year 9; range = 4.9% to 16.9%. Mental health problems increased; range = + 1.2% (year 9 boys) to + 4.6% (year 11 girls) and were consistently higher among girls (17.2% in year 11, 2020). In adjusted models, having been bullied was detrimentally associated with mental health (OR = 2.57 [2.24–2.96]). Reports of mental health problems were four times higher among boys who had been bullied compared to those not bullied. The corresponding figure for girls was 2.4 times higher.


Exposure to bullying at school was associated with higher odds of mental health problems. Boys appear to be more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of bullying than girls.


Bullying involves repeated hurtful actions between peers where an imbalance of power exists [ 1 ]. Arseneault et al. [ 2 ] conducted a review of the mental health consequences of bullying for children and adolescents and found that bullying is associated with severe symptoms of mental health problems, including self-harm and suicidality. Bullying was shown to have detrimental effects that persist into late adolescence and contribute independently to mental health problems. Updated reviews have presented evidence indicating that bullying is causative of mental illness in many adolescents [ 3 , 4 ].

There are indications that mental health problems are increasing among adolescents in some Nordic countries. Hagquist et al. [ 5 ] examined trends in mental health among Scandinavian adolescents (n = 116, 531) aged 11–15 years between 1993 and 2014. Mental health problems were operationalized as difficulty concentrating, sleep disorders, headache, stomach pain, feeling tense, sad and/or dizzy. The study revealed increasing rates of adolescent mental health problems in all four counties (Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark), with Sweden experiencing the sharpest increase among older adolescents, particularly girls. Worsening adolescent mental health has also been reported in the United Kingdom. A study of 28,100 school-aged adolescents in England found that two out of five young people scored above thresholds for emotional problems, conduct problems or hyperactivity [ 6 ]. Female gender, deprivation, high needs status (educational/social), ethnic background, and older age were all associated with higher odds of experiencing mental health difficulties.

Bullying is shown to increase the risk of poor mental health and may partly explain these detrimental changes. Le et al. [ 7 ] reported an inverse association between bullying and mental health among 11–16-year-olds in Vietnam. They also found that poor mental health can make some children and adolescents more vulnerable to bullying at school. Bayer et al. [ 8 ] examined links between bullying at school and mental health among 8–9-year-old children in Australia. Those who experienced bullying more than once a week had poorer mental health than children who experienced bullying less frequently. Friendships moderated this association, such that children with more friends experienced fewer mental health problems (protective effect). Hysing et al. [ 9 ] investigated the association between experiences of bullying (as a victim or perpetrator) and mental health, sleep disorders, and school performance among 16–19 year olds from Norway (n = 10,200). Participants were categorized as victims, bullies, or bully-victims (that is, victims who also bullied others). All three categories were associated with worse mental health, school performance, and sleeping difficulties. Those who had been bullied also reported more emotional problems, while those who bullied others reported more conduct disorders [ 9 ].

As most adolescents spend a considerable amount of time at school, the school environment has been a major focus of mental health research [ 10 , 11 ]. In a recent review, Saminathen et al. [ 12 ] concluded that school is a potential protective factor against mental health problems, as it provides a socially supportive context and prepares students for higher education and employment. However, it may also be the primary setting for protracted bullying and stress [ 13 ]. Another factor associated with adolescent mental health is parental socio-economic status (SES) [ 14 ]. A systematic review indicated that lower parental SES is associated with poorer adolescent mental health [ 15 ]. However, no previous studies have examined whether SES modifies or attenuates the association between bullying and mental health. Similarly, it remains unclear whether school related factors, such as school grades and the school environment, influence the relationship between bullying and mental health. This information could help to identify those adolescents most at risk of harm from bullying.

To address these issues, we investigated the prevalence of bullying at school and mental health problems among Swedish adolescents aged 15–18 years between 2014 and 2020 using a population-based school survey. We also examined associations between bullying at school and mental health problems adjusting for relevant demographic, socioeconomic, and school-related factors. We hypothesized that: (1) bullying and adolescent mental health problems have increased over time; (2) There is an association between bullying victimization and mental health, so that mental health problems are more prevalent among those who have been victims of bullying; and (3) that school-related factors would attenuate the association between bullying and mental health.


The Stockholm school survey is completed every other year by students in lower secondary school (year 9—compulsory) and upper secondary school (year 11). The survey is mandatory for public schools, but voluntary for private schools. The purpose of the survey is to help inform decision making by local authorities that will ultimately improve students’ wellbeing. The questions relate to life circumstances, including SES, schoolwork, bullying, drug use, health, and crime. Non-completers are those who were absent from school when the survey was completed (< 5%). Response rates vary from year to year but are typically around 75%. For the current study data were available for 2014, 2018 and 2020. In 2014; 5235 boys and 5761 girls responded, in 2018; 5017 boys and 5211 girls responded, and in 2020; 5633 boys and 5865 girls responded (total n = 32,722). Data for the exposure variable, bullied at school, were missing for 4159 students, leaving 28,563 participants in the crude model. The fully adjusted model (described below) included 15,985 participants. The mean age in grade 9 was 15.3 years (SD = 0.51) and in grade 11, 17.3 years (SD = 0.61). As the data are completely anonymous, the study was exempt from ethical approval according to an earlier decision from the Ethical Review Board in Stockholm (2010-241 31-5). Details of the survey are available via a website [ 16 ], and are described in a previous paper [ 17 ].

Students completed the questionnaire during a school lesson, placed it in a sealed envelope and handed it to their teacher. Student were permitted the entire lesson (about 40 min) to complete the questionnaire and were informed that participation was voluntary (and that they were free to cancel their participation at any time without consequences). Students were also informed that the Origo Group was responsible for collection of the data on behalf of the City of Stockholm.

Study outcome

Mental health problems were assessed by using a modified version of the Psychosomatic Problem Scale [ 18 ] shown to be appropriate for children and adolescents and invariant across gender and years. The scale was later modified [ 19 ]. In the modified version, items about difficulty concentrating and feeling giddy were deleted and an item about ‘life being great to live’ was added. Seven different symptoms or problems, such as headaches, depression, feeling fear, stomach problems, difficulty sleeping, believing it’s great to live (coded negatively as seldom or rarely) and poor appetite were used. Students who responded (on a 5-point scale) that any of these problems typically occurs ‘at least once a week’ were considered as having indicators of a mental health problem. Cronbach alpha was 0.69 across the whole sample. Adding these problem areas, a total index was created from 0 to 7 mental health symptoms. Those who scored between 0 and 4 points on the total symptoms index were considered to have a low indication of mental health problems (coded as 0); those who scored between 5 and 7 symptoms were considered as likely having mental health problems (coded as 1).

Primary exposure

Experiences of bullying were measured by the following two questions: Have you felt bullied or harassed during the past school year? Have you been involved in bullying or harassing other students during this school year? Alternatives for the first question were: yes or no with several options describing how the bullying had taken place (if yes). Alternatives indicating emotional bullying were feelings of being mocked, ridiculed, socially excluded, or teased. Alternatives indicating physical bullying were being beaten, kicked, forced to do something against their will, robbed, or locked away somewhere. The response alternatives for the second question gave an estimation of how often the respondent had participated in bullying others (from once to several times a week). Combining the answers to these two questions, five different categories of bullying were identified: (1) never been bullied and never bully others; (2) victims of emotional (verbal) bullying who have never bullied others; (3) victims of physical bullying who have never bullied others; (4) victims of bullying who have also bullied others; and (5) perpetrators of bullying, but not victims. As the number of positive cases in the last three categories was low (range = 3–15 cases) bully categories 2–4 were combined into one primary exposure variable: ‘bullied at school’.

Assessment year was operationalized as the year when data was collected: 2014, 2018, and 2020. Age was operationalized as school grade 9 (15–16 years) or 11 (17–18 years). Gender was self-reported (boy or girl). The school situation To assess experiences of the school situation, students responded to 18 statements about well-being in school, participation in important school matters, perceptions of their teachers, and teaching quality. Responses were given on a four-point Likert scale ranging from ‘do not agree at all’ to ‘fully agree’. To reduce the 18-items down to their essential factors, we performed a principal axis factor analysis. Results showed that the 18 statements formed five factors which, according to the Kaiser criterion (eigen values > 1) explained 56% of the covariance in the student’s experience of the school situation. The five factors identified were: (1) Participation in school; (2) Interesting and meaningful work; (3) Feeling well at school; (4) Structured school lessons; and (5) Praise for achievements. For each factor, an index was created that was dichotomised (poor versus good circumstance) using the median-split and dummy coded with ‘good circumstance’ as reference. A description of the items included in each factor is available as Additional file 1 . Socio-economic status (SES) was assessed with three questions about the education level of the student’s mother and father (dichotomized as university degree versus not), and the amount of spending money the student typically received for entertainment each month (> SEK 1000 [approximately $120] versus less). Higher parental education and more spending money were used as reference categories. School grades in Swedish, English, and mathematics were measured separately on a 7-point scale and dichotomized as high (grades A, B, and C) versus low (grades D, E, and F). High school grades were used as the reference category.

Statistical analyses

The prevalence of mental health problems and bullying at school are presented using descriptive statistics, stratified by survey year (2014, 2018, 2020), gender, and school year (9 versus 11). As noted, we reduced the 18-item questionnaire assessing school function down to five essential factors by conducting a principal axis factor analysis (see Additional file 1 ). We then calculated the association between bullying at school (defined above) and mental health problems using multivariable logistic regression. Results are presented as odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (Cis). To assess the contribution of SES and school-related factors to this association, three models are presented: Crude, Model 1 adjusted for demographic factors: age, gender, and assessment year; Model 2 adjusted for Model 1 plus SES (parental education and student spending money), and Model 3 adjusted for Model 2 plus school-related factors (school grades and the five factors identified in the principal factor analysis). These covariates were entered into the regression models in three blocks, where the final model represents the fully adjusted analyses. In all models, the category ‘not bullied at school’ was used as the reference. Pseudo R-square was calculated to estimate what proportion of the variance in mental health problems was explained by each model. Unlike the R-square statistic derived from linear regression, the Pseudo R-square statistic derived from logistic regression gives an indicator of the explained variance, as opposed to an exact estimate, and is considered informative in identifying the relative contribution of each model to the outcome [ 20 ]. All analyses were performed using SPSS v. 26.0.

Prevalence of bullying at school and mental health problems

Estimates of the prevalence of bullying at school and mental health problems across the 12 strata of data (3 years × 2 school grades × 2 genders) are shown in Table 1 . The prevalence of bullying at school increased minimally (< 1%) between 2014 and 2020, except among girls in grade 11 (2.5% increase). Mental health problems increased between 2014 and 2020 (range = 1.2% [boys in year 11] to 4.6% [girls in year 11]); were three to four times more prevalent among girls (range = 11.6% to 17.2%) compared to boys (range = 2.6% to 4.9%); and were more prevalent among older adolescents compared to younger adolescents (range = 1% to 3.1% higher). Pooling all data, reports of mental health problems were four times more prevalent among boys who had been victims of bullying compared to those who reported no experiences with bullying. The corresponding figure for girls was two and a half times as prevalent.

Associations between bullying at school and mental health problems

Table 2 shows the association between bullying at school and mental health problems after adjustment for relevant covariates. Demographic factors, including female gender (OR = 3.87; CI 3.48–4.29), older age (OR = 1.38, CI 1.26–1.50), and more recent assessment year (OR = 1.18, CI 1.13–1.25) were associated with higher odds of mental health problems. In Model 2, none of the included SES variables (parental education and student spending money) were associated with mental health problems. In Model 3 (fully adjusted), the following school-related factors were associated with higher odds of mental health problems: lower grades in Swedish (OR = 1.42, CI 1.22–1.67); uninteresting or meaningless schoolwork (OR = 2.44, CI 2.13–2.78); feeling unwell at school (OR = 1.64, CI 1.34–1.85); unstructured school lessons (OR = 1.31, CI = 1.16–1.47); and no praise for achievements (OR = 1.19, CI 1.06–1.34). After adjustment for all covariates, being bullied at school remained associated with higher odds of mental health problems (OR = 2.57; CI 2.24–2.96). Demographic and school-related factors explained 12% and 6% of the variance in mental health problems, respectively (Pseudo R-Square). The inclusion of socioeconomic factors did not alter the variance explained.

Our findings indicate that mental health problems increased among Swedish adolescents between 2014 and 2020, while the prevalence of bullying at school remained stable (< 1% increase), except among girls in year 11, where the prevalence increased by 2.5%. As previously reported [ 5 , 6 ], mental health problems were more common among girls and older adolescents. These findings align with previous studies showing that adolescents who are bullied at school are more likely to experience mental health problems compared to those who are not bullied [ 3 , 4 , 9 ]. This detrimental relationship was observed after adjustment for school-related factors shown to be associated with adolescent mental health [ 10 ].

A novel finding was that boys who had been bullied at school reported a four-times higher prevalence of mental health problems compared to non-bullied boys. The corresponding figure for girls was 2.5 times higher for those who were bullied compared to non-bullied girls, which could indicate that boys are more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of bullying than girls. Alternatively, it may indicate that boys are (on average) bullied more frequently or more intensely than girls, leading to worse mental health. Social support could also play a role; adolescent girls often have stronger social networks than boys and could be more inclined to voice concerns about bullying to significant others, who in turn may offer supports which are protective [ 21 ]. Related studies partly confirm this speculative explanation. An Estonian study involving 2048 children and adolescents aged 10–16 years found that, compared to girls, boys who had been bullied were more likely to report severe distress, measured by poor mental health and feelings of hopelessness [ 22 ].

Other studies suggest that heritable traits, such as the tendency to internalize problems and having low self-esteem are associated with being a bully-victim [ 23 ]. Genetics are understood to explain a large proportion of bullying-related behaviors among adolescents. A study from the Netherlands involving 8215 primary school children found that genetics explained approximately 65% of the risk of being a bully-victim [ 24 ]. This proportion was similar for boys and girls. Higher than average body mass index (BMI) is another recognized risk factor [ 25 ]. A recent Australian trial involving 13 schools and 1087 students (mean age = 13 years) targeted adolescents with high-risk personality traits (hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity, impulsivity, sensation seeking) to reduce bullying at school; both as victims and perpetrators [ 26 ]. There was no significant intervention effect for bullying victimization or perpetration in the total sample. In a secondary analysis, compared to the control schools, intervention school students showed greater reductions in victimization, suicidal ideation, and emotional symptoms. These findings potentially support targeting high-risk personality traits in bullying prevention [ 26 ].

The relative stability of bullying at school between 2014 and 2020 suggests that other factors may better explain the increase in mental health problems seen here. Many factors could be contributing to these changes, including the increasingly competitive labour market, higher demands for education, and the rapid expansion of social media [ 19 , 27 , 28 ]. A recent Swedish study involving 29,199 students aged between 11 and 16 years found that the effects of school stress on psychosomatic symptoms have become stronger over time (1993–2017) and have increased more among girls than among boys [ 10 ]. Research is needed examining possible gender differences in perceived school stress and how these differences moderate associations between bullying and mental health.

Strengths and limitations

Strengths of the current study include the large participant sample from diverse schools; public and private, theoretical and practical orientations. The survey included items measuring diverse aspects of the school environment; factors previously linked to adolescent mental health but rarely included as covariates in studies of bullying and mental health. Some limitations are also acknowledged. These data are cross-sectional which means that the direction of the associations cannot be determined. Moreover, all the variables measured were self-reported. Previous studies indicate that students tend to under-report bullying and mental health problems [ 29 ]; thus, our results may underestimate the prevalence of these behaviors.

In conclusion, consistent with our stated hypotheses, we observed an increase in self-reported mental health problems among Swedish adolescents, and a detrimental association between bullying at school and mental health problems. Although bullying at school does not appear to be the primary explanation for these changes, bullying was detrimentally associated with mental health after adjustment for relevant demographic, socio-economic, and school-related factors, confirming our third hypothesis. The finding that boys are potentially more vulnerable than girls to the deleterious effects of bullying should be replicated in future studies, and the mechanisms investigated. Future studies should examine the longitudinal association between bullying and mental health, including which factors mediate/moderate this relationship. Epigenetic studies are also required to better understand the complex interaction between environmental and biological risk factors for adolescent mental health [ 24 ].

Availability of data and materials

Data requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis; please email the corresponding author.

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Authors are grateful to the Department for Social Affairs, Stockholm, for permission to use data from the Stockholm School Survey.

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Håkan Källmén

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HK conceived the study and analyzed the data (with input from MH). HK and MH interpreted the data and jointly wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Källmén, H., Hallgren, M. Bullying at school and mental health problems among adolescents: a repeated cross-sectional study. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health 15 , 74 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-021-00425-y

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effects of bullying on society essay

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How does bullying affect health and well-being?

Bullying can affect physical and emotional health, both in the short term and later in life. It can lead to physical injury, social problems, emotional problems, and even death. 1 Those who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems, headaches, and problems adjusting to school. 2 Bullying also can cause long-term damage to self-esteem. 3

Children and adolescents who are bullies are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence to others later in life. 2

Those who are both bullies and victims of bullying suffer the most serious effects of bullying and are at greater risk for mental and behavioral problems than those who are only bullied or who are only bullies. 2

NICHD research studies show that anyone involved with bullying—those who bully others, those who are bullied, and those who bully and are bullied—are at increased risk for depression. 4

NICHD-funded research studies also found that unlike traditional forms of bullying, youth who are bullied electronically—such as by computer or cell phone—are at higher risk for depression than the youth who bully them. 5 Even more surprising, the same studies found that cyber victims were at higher risk for depression than were cyberbullies or bully-victims (i.e., those who both bully others and are bullied themselves), which was not found in any other form of bullying. Read more about these findings in the NICHD news release: Depression High Among Youth Victims of School Cyberbullying, NIH Researchers Report .  

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Fact sheet: Understanding bullying . Retrieved June 17, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-factsheet508.pdf (PDF - 356 KB).
  • Smokowski, P. R., & Kopasz, K. H. (2005). Bullying in school: An overview of types, effects, family characteristics, and intervention strategies. Children and Schools, 27, 101–109.

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  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2010). Taking a stand against bullying. Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/spotlight/092110-taking-stand-against-bullying
  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2012). Focus on children's mental health research at the NICHD. Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/spotlight/060112-childrens-mental-health

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9 facts about bullying in the U.S.

Many U.S. children have experienced bullying, whether online or in person. This has prompted discussions about schools’ responsibility to curb student harassment , and some parents have turned to home-schooling or other measures to prevent bullying .

Here is a snapshot of what we know about U.S. kids’ experiences with bullying, taken from Pew Research Center surveys and federal data sources.

Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to understand U.S. children’s experiences with bullying, both online and in person. Findings are based on surveys conducted by the Center, as well as data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional information about each survey and its methodology can be found in the links in the text of this analysis.

Bullying is among parents’ top concerns for their children, according to a fall 2022 Center survey of parents with children under 18 . About a third (35%) of U.S. parents with children younger than 18 say they are extremely or very worried that their children might be bullied at some point. Another 39% are somewhat worried about this.

Of the eight concerns asked about in the survey, only one ranked higher for parents than bullying: Four-in-ten parents are extremely or very worried about their children struggling with anxiety or depression.

A bar chart showing that bullying is among parents' top concerns for their children.

About half of U.S. teens (53%) say online harassment and online bullying are a major problem for people their age, according to a spring 2022 Center survey of teens ages 13 to 17 . Another 40% say it is a minor problem, and just 6% say it is not a problem.

Black and Hispanic teens, those from lower-income households and teen girls are more likely than those in other groups to view online harassment as a major problem.

Nearly half of U.S. teens have ever been cyberbullied, according the 2022 Center survey of teens . The survey asked teens whether they had ever experienced six types of cyberbullying. Overall, 46% say they have ever encountered at least one of these behaviors, while 28% have experienced multiple types.

A bar chart showing that nearly half of teens have ever experienced cyberbullying, with offensive name-calling being the type most commonly reported.

The most common type of online bullying for teens in this age group is being called an offensive name (32% have experienced this). Roughly one-in-five teens have had false rumors spread about them online (22%) or were sent explicit images they didn’t ask for (17%).

Teens also report they have experienced someone other than a parent constantly asking them where they are, what they’re doing or who they’re with (15%); being physically threatened (10%); or having explicit images of them shared without their consent (7%).

Older teen girls are especially likely to have experienced bullying online, the spring 2022 survey of teens shows. Some 54% of girls ages 15 to 17 have experienced at least one cyberbullying behavior asked about in the survey, compared with 44% of boys in the same age group and 41% of younger teens. In particular, older teen girls are more likely than the other groups to say they have been the target of false rumors and constant monitoring by someone other than a parent.

They are also more likely to think they have been harassed online because of their physical appearance: 21% of girls ages 15 to 17 say this, compared with about one-in-ten younger teen girls and teen boys.

A horizontal stacked bar chart showing that older teen girls stand out for experiencing multiple types of cyberbullying behaviors.

White, Black and Hispanic teens have all encountered online bullying at some point, but some of their experiences differ, the spring 2022 teens survey found. For instance, 21% of Black teens say they’ve been targeted online because of their race or ethnicity, compared with 11% of Hispanic teens and 4% of White teens.

Hispanic teens are the most likely to say they’ve been constantly asked where they are, what they’re doing or who they’re with by someone other than a parent. And White teens are more likely than Black teens to say they’ve been targeted by false rumors.

The sample size for Asian American teens was not large enough to analyze separately.

A bar chart showing that black teens more likely than those who are Hispanic or White to say they have been cyberbullied because of their race or ethnicity

During the 2019-2020 school year, around two-in-ten U.S. middle and high school students said they were bullied at school . That year, 22% of students ages 12 to 18 said this, with the largest shares saying the bullying occurred for one day only (32%) or for between three and 10 days (29%), according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Certain groups of students were more likely to experience bullying at school. They include girls, middle schoolers (those in sixth, seventh or eighth grade), and students in rural areas.  

The most common types of at-school bullying for all students ages 12 to 18 were being made the subject of rumors (15%) and being made fun of, called names or insulted (14%).

A bar chart showing that girls, middle schoolers and rural students are among the most likely to say they were bullied at school in 2019-2020.

The classroom was the most common location of bullying that occurred at school in 2019-2020, the BJS and NCES data shows. This was the case for 47% of students ages 12 to 18 who said they were bullied during that school year. Other frequently reported locations included hallways or stairwells (39%), the cafeteria (26%) and outside on school grounds (20%).

Fewer than half (46%) of middle and high schoolers who were bullied at school in 2019-2020 said they notified a teacher or another adult about it, according to the BJS and NCES data. Younger students were more likely to tell an adult at school. Around half or more of sixth, seventh and eighth graders said they did so, compared with 28% of 12th graders.

Students who reported more frequent bullying were also more likely to notify an adult at school. For instance, 60% of those who experienced bullying on more than 10 days during the school year told an adult, compared with 35% of those who experienced it on one day.

In 2021, high schoolers who are gay, lesbian or bisexual were about twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to say they’d been bullied, both at school and online, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . In the 12 months before the survey, 22% of high school students who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual – and 21% of those who identify as questioning or some other way – said they were bullied on school property. That compares with 10% of heterosexual students. The data does not include findings for transgender students.

A dot plot showing that high schoolers' experiences with bullying vary widely by sexual orientation.

The trend is similar when it comes to electronic bullying through text or social media: 27% of high school students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual say they experienced this in the 12 months before the survey, as did 23% of those who identify as questioning or some other way. That compares with 11% of those who identify as heterosexual.

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Long-term effects of bullying

Dieter wolke.

1 Department of Psychology and Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Suzet Tanya Lereya

2 Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Bullying is the systematic abuse of power and is defined as aggressive behaviour or intentional harm-doing by peers that is carried out repeatedly and involves an imbalance of power. Being bullied is still often wrongly considered as a ‘normal rite of passage’. This review considers the importance of bullying as a major risk factor for poor physical and mental health and reduced adaptation to adult roles including forming lasting relationships, integrating into work and being economically independent. Bullying by peers has been mostly ignored by health professionals but should be considered as a significant risk factor and safeguarding issue.

Definition and epidemiology

Bullying is the systematic abuse of power and is defined as aggressive behaviour or intentional harm-doing by peers that is carried out repeatedly and involves an imbalance of power , either actual or perceived, between the victim and the bully. 1 Bullying can take the form of direct bullying, which includes physical and verbal acts of aggression such as hitting, stealing or name calling, or indirect bullying, which is characterised by social exclusion (eg, you cannot play with us, you are not invited, etc) and rumour spreading. 2–4 Children can be involved in bullying as victims and bullies, and also as bully/victims, a subgroup of victims who also display bullying behaviour. 5 6 Recently there has been much interest in cyberbullying, which can be broadly defined as any bullying which is performed via electronic means, such as mobile phones or the internet. One in three children report having been bullied at some point in their lives, and 10–14% experience chronic bullying lasting for more than 6 months. 7 8 Between 2% and 5% are bullies and a similar number are bully/victims in childhood/adolescence. 9 Rates of cyberbullying are substantially lower at around 4.5% for victims and 2.8% for perpetrators (bullies and bully/victims), with up to 90% of the cyber-bullying victims also being traditionally (face to face) bullied. 10 Being bullied by peers is the most frequent form of abuse encountered by children, much higher than abuse by parents or other adult perpetrators 11 ( box 1 ).

Bullying screener

  • Are threatened or blackmailed or have their things stolen
  • Are insulted or get called nasty names
  • Have nasty tricks played on them/are subject to ridicule
  • Are hit, shoved around or beaten up
  • Get deliberately left out of get-togethers, parties, trips or groups
  • Have others ignore them, not wanting to be their friend anymore, or not wanting them around in their group
  • Have nasty lies, rumours or stories told about them
  • Have their private email, instant mail or text messages forwarded to someone else or have them posted where others can see them
  • Have rumours spread about them online
  • Get threatening or aggressive emails, instant messages or text messages
  • Have embarrassing pictures posted online without their permission

(Answered for A, B, and C separately on this 4-point scale)

  • Not much (1–3 times)
  • Quite a lot (more than 4 times)
  • A lot (at least once a week)

Victims : Happened to them: quite a lot/a lot; did to others: never/not much

Bully/victims : Happened to them: quite a lot/a lot; did to others: quite a lot/a lot

Bullies : Happened to them: never/not much; did to others: quite a lot/a lot

Adapted from refs 3 8 12 13

Bullying is not conduct disorder

Bullying is found in all societies, including modern hunter-gatherer societies and ancient civilisations. It is considered an evolutionary adaptation, the purpose of which is to gain high status and dominance, 14 get access to resources, secure survival, reduce stress and allow for more mating opportunities. 15 Bullies are often bi-strategic, employing both bullying and also acts of aggressive ‘prosocial’ behaviour to enhance their own position by acting in public and making the recipient dependent as they cannot reciprocate. 16 Thus, pure bullies (but not bully/victims or victims) have been found to be strong, highly popular and to have good social and emotional understanding. 17 Hence, bullies most likely do not have a conduct disorder. Moreover, unlike conduct disorder, bullies are found in all socioeconomic 18 and ethnic groups. 12 In contrast, victims have been described as withdrawn, unassertive, easily emotionally upset, and as having poor emotional or social understanding, 17 19 while bully/victims tend to be aggressive, easily angered, low on popularity, frequently bullied by their siblings 20 and come from families with lower socioeconomic status (SES), 18 similar to children with conduct disorder.

How bullies operate

Bullying occurs in settings where individuals do not have a say concerning the group they want to be in. This is the situation for children in school classrooms or at home with siblings, and has been compared to being ‘caged’ with others. In an effort to establish a social network or hierarchy, bullies will try to exert their power with all children. Those who have an emotional reaction (eg, cry, run away, are upset) and have nobody or few to stand up for them, are the repeated targets of bullies. Bullies may get others to join in (laugh, tease, hit, spread rumours) as bystanders or even as henchmen (bully/victims). It has been shown that conditions that foster higher density and greater hierarchies in classrooms (inegalitarian conditions), 21 at home 22 or even in nations, 23 increase bullying 24 and the stability of bullying victimisation over time. 25

Adverse consequences of being bullied

Until fairly recently, most studies on the effects of bullying were cross-sectional or just included brief follow-up periods, making it impossible to identify whether bullying is the cause or consequence of health problems. Thus, this review focuses mostly on prospective studies that were able to control for pre-existing health conditions, family situation and other exposures to violence (eg, family violence) in investigating the effects of being involved in bullying on subsequent health, self-harm and suicide, schooling, employment and social relationships.

Childhood and adolescence (6–17 years)

A fully referenced summary of the consequences of bullying during childhood and adolescence on prospectively studied outcomes up to the age of 17 years is shown in table 1 . Children who were victims of bullying have been consistently found to be at higher risk for common somatic problems such as colds, or psychosomatic problems such as headaches, stomach aches or sleeping problems, and are more likely to take up smoking. 39 40 Victims have also been reported to more often develop internalising problems and anxiety disorder or depression disorder. 31 Genetically sensitive designs allowed comparison of monozygotic twins who are genetically identical and live in the same households but were discordant for experiences of bullying. Internalising problems was found to have increased over time only in those who were bullied, 32 providing strong evidence that bullying rather than other factors explains increases in internalising problems. Furthermore, victims of bullying are at significantly increased risk of self-harm or thinking about suicide in adolescence. 43 44 Furthermore, being bullied in primary school has been found to both predict borderline personality symptoms 30 and psychotic experiences, such as hallucinations or delusions, by adolescence. 37 Where investigated, those who were either exposed to several forms of bullying or were bullied over long periods of time (chronic bullying) tended to show more adverse effects. 31 37 In contrast to the consistently moderate to strong relationships with somatic and mental health outcomes, the association between being bullied and poor academic functioning has not been as strong as expected. 51 A meta-analysis only indicated a small negative effect of victimisation on mostly concurrent academic performance and the effects differed whether bullying was self-reported or by peers or teachers. 47 Those studies that distinguished between victims and bully/victims usually reported that bully/victims had a slightly higher risk for somatic and mental health problems than pure victims. 41 52 Furthermore, most studies considered bullies and bully/victims together; however, as outlined above, the two roles are quite different with bullies often highly competent manipulators and ringleaders, while bully/victims are described as impulsive and poor in regulating their emotions. 53 We know little about the mental health outcomes of bullies in childhood, but there are some suggestions that they may also be at slightly increased risk of depression or self-harm, 33 45 however, less so than victims. Similarly, the relationship between being a bully and somatic health is weaker than in bully/victims, 39 or bullies have even been found to be healthier and stronger than children not involved in bullying. 41 Bullying perpetration has been found to increase the risk of offending in adolescence; 54 however, the analysis did not distinguish between bullies and bully/victims and did not include information about poly-victimisation (eg, being maltreated by parents). Bullies were also more likely to display delinquent behaviour and perpetrate dating violence by eighth grade. 50

Table 1

Consequences of involvement in bullying behaviour in childhood and adolescence on outcomes assessed up to 17 years of age

Childhood to adulthood (18–50 years)

Children who were victims of bullying have been consistently found to be at higher risk for internalising problems, in particular diagnoses of anxiety disorder 55 and depression 9 in young adulthood and middle adulthood (18–50 years of age) ( table 2 ). 56 Furthermore, victims were at increased risk for displaying psychotic experiences at age 18 8 and having suicidal ideation, attempts and completed suicides. 56 Victims were also reported to have poor general health, 65 including more bodily pain, headaches and slower recovery from illnesses. 57 Moreover, victimised children were found to have lower educational qualifications, be worse at financial management 57 and to earn less than their peers even at age 50. 56 69 Victims were also reported to have more trouble making or keeping friends and to be less likely to live with a partner and have social support. No association between substance use, anti-social behaviour and victimisation was found. The studies that distinguished between victims and bully/victims showed that usually bully/victims had a slightly higher risk for anxiety, depression, psychotic experiences, suicide attempts and poor general health than pure victims. 9 They also had even lower educational qualifications and trouble keeping a job and honouring financial obligations. 57 65 In contrast to pure victims, bully/victims were at increased risk for displaying anti-social behaviour and were more likely to become a young parent. 62 70 71 Again, we know less about pure bullies, but where studied, they were not found to be at increased risk for any mental or general health problems. Indeed, they were healthier than their peers, emotionally and physically. 9 57 However, pure bullies may be more deviant and more likely to be less educated and to be unemployed. 65 They have also been reported to be more likely to display anti-social behaviour, and be charged with serious crime, burglary or illegal drug use. 58 59 66 However, many of these effects on delinquency may disappear when other adverse family circumstances are controlled for. 57

Table 2

Consequences of involvement in bullying behaviour in childhood/adolescence on outcomes in young adulthood and adulthood (18–50 years)

The findings from prospective child, adolescent and adult outcome studies are summarised in figure 1 .

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is archdischild-2014-306667f01.jpg

The impact of being bullied on functioning in teenagers and adulthood.

The carefully controlled prospective studies reviewed here provide a converging picture of the long-term effects of being bullied in childhood. First, the effects of being bullied extend beyond the consequences of other childhood adversity and adult abuse. 9 In fact, when compared to the experience of having been placed into care in childhood, the effects of frequent bullying were as detrimental 40 years later 56 ! Second, there is a dose–effect relationship between being victimised by peers and outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. Those who were bullied more frequently, 56 more severely (ie, directly and indirectly) 31 or more chronically (ie, over a longer period of time 8 ) have worse outcomes. Third, even those who stopped being bullied during school age showed some lingering effects on their health, self-worth and quality of life years later compared to those never bullied 72 but significantly less than those who remained victims for years (chronic victims). Fourth, where victims and bully/victims have been considered separately, bully/victims seem to show the poorest outcomes concerning mental health, economic adaptation, social relationships and early parenthood. 8 9 62 70 Lastly, studies that distinguished between bullies and bully/victims found few adverse effects of being a pure bully on adult outcomes. This is consistent with a view that bullies are highly sophisticated social manipulators who are callous and show little empathy. 73

There are a variety of potential routes by which being victimised may affect later life outcomes. Being bullied may alter physiological responses to stress, 74 interact with a genetic vulnerability such as variation in the serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene, 75 or affect telomere length (ageing) or the epigenome. 76 Altered HPA-axis activity and altered cortisol responses may increase the risk for developing mental health problems 77 and also increase susceptibility to illness by interfering with immune responses. 78 In contrast, bullying may also differentially affect normal chronic inflammation and associated health problems that can persist into adulthood. 64 Chronically raised C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a marker of low-grade systemic inflammation in the body, increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders and mental health problems such as depression. 79 Blood tests revealed that CRP levels in the blood of bullied children increased with the number of times they were bullied. Additional blood tests carried out on the children after they had reached 19 and 21 years of age revealed that those who were bullied as children had CRP levels more than twice as high as bullies, while bullies had CRP levels lower than those who were neither bullies nor victims ( figure 2 ). Thus, bullying others appears to have a protective effect consistent with studies showing lower inflammation for individuals with higher socioeconomic status 80 and studies with non-human primates showing health benefits for those higher in the social hierarchy. 81 The clear implication of these findings is that both ends of the continuum of social status in peer relationships are important for inflammation levels and health status.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is archdischild-2014-306667f02.jpg

Adjusted mean young adult C-reactive protein (CRP) levels (mg/L) based on childhood/adolescent bullying status. These values are adjusted for baseline CRP levels as well as other CRP-related covariates. All analyses used robust SEs to account for repeated observations (reproduced from Copeland et al 64 ).

Furthermore, experiences of threat by peers may alter cognitive responses to threatening situations. 82 Both altered stress responses and altered social cognition (eg, being hypervigilant to hostile cues 38 ) and neurocircuitry 83 related to bullying exposure may affect social relationships with parents, friends and co-workers. Finally, victimisation, in particular of bully/victims, affects schooling and has been found to be associated with school absenteeism. In the UK alone, over 16 000 young people aged 11–15 are estimated to be absent from state school with bullying as the main reason, and 78 000 are absent where bullying is one of the reasons given for absence. 84 The risk of failure to complete high school or college in chronic victims or bully/victims increases the risk of poorer income and job performance. 57

Summary and implications

Childhood bullying has serious effects on health, resulting in substantial costs for individuals, their families and society at large. In the USA, it has been estimated that preventing high school bullying results in lifetime cost benefits of over $1.4 million per individual. 85 In the UK alone, over 16 000 young people aged 11–15 are estimated to be absent from state school with bullying as the main reason, and 78 000 are absent where bullying is one of the reasons given for absence. 86 Many bullied children suffer in silence, and are reluctant to tell their parents or teachers about their experiences, for fear of reprisals or because of shame. 87 Up to 50% of children say they would rarely, or never, tell their parents, while between 35% and 60% would not tell their teacher. 11

Considering this evidence of the ill effects of being bullied and the fact that children will have spent much more time with their peers than their parents by the time they reach 18 years of age, it is more than surprising that childhood bullying is not at the forefront as a major public health concern. 88 Children are hardly ever asked about their peer relationships by health professionals. This may be because health professionals are poorly educated about bullying and find it difficult to raise the subject or deal with it. 89 However, it is important considering that many children abstain from school due to bullying and related health problems and being bullied throws a long shadow over their lives. To prevent violence against the self (eg, self-harm) and reduce mental and somatic health problems, it is imperative for health practitioners to address bullying.

Contributors: DW conceived the review, produced the first draft and revised it critically; STL contributed to the literature research and writing, and critically reviewed and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Funding: This review was partly supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant ES/K003593/1.

Competing interests: None.

Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Conclusion: Implications and Addressing School Bullying and Inequality

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In the concluding Chap. 9 , we discuss why ameliorating violence and victimization should be a priority. Of course, addressing bullying victimization that occurs within schools for all youth is paramount toward sustaining a system that is supposed to facilitate educational progress and sustainability. There is a persistent history of disparities linked to socioeconomic and social status, family cohesion and interactions, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, race, ethnicity, immigration, and religion, and disabilities and special health needs in the U.S. school system. The social problem of bullying within U.S. schools is both complex and diverse. It is clear that the sources and factors associated with the vulnerability and marginalization of youth to being victimized at school presented in this book also intersect. Although homes, schools, and neighborhoods may never be completely bully-free environments, there are several ways to assist students in breaking the bullying and peer victimization cycles. The information presented in this book is also one calling for advocacy, which will suggest that if policymakers, school administrators, and community stakeholders are seeking to address and ameliorate bullying within schools, it is vital to consider the significance of various forms of social inequality.

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Peguero, A.A., Hong, J.S. (2020). Conclusion: Implications and Addressing School Bullying and Inequality. In: School Bullying. Springer Series on Child and Family Studies. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-64367-6_9

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The Long-Lasting Effects of Bullying

Social and emotional impact, physical impact, academic impact, impact on family, long-term effects and healing.

Being bullied is both heartbreaking and miserable for those targeted. But many adults, unless they too have been bullied, have a hard time understanding just how much kids can suffer. They fail to realize that the consequences of bullying are significant and can have a lasting impact.

This lack of understanding is often called the "empathy gap." Working to close this empathy gap is one of the best ways to improve bullying policies and prevent bullying .

In fact, efforts to advocate on behalf of victims will not be effective unless people truly comprehend how painful and traumatic bullying can be. Here is an overview of the effects of bullying and how victims can recover.

Kids who are regularly targeted by bullies often suffer both emotionally and socially. Not only do they find it hard to make friends, but they also struggle to maintain healthy friendships.

Part of this struggle is directly related to low self-esteem . A lack of self-esteem is a direct result of the mean and hurtful things that other kids say about them. When kids are continually called "fat" or "losers," they begin to believe these things are true.

Bullying victims also tend to experience a wide range of emotions. They may feel angry, bitter, vulnerable, helpless, frustrated, lonely, and isolated from their peers. Consequently, they may skip classes and resort to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain. And if bullying is on-going, they may develop depression and even contemplate suicide .

There’s no single cause of depression, according to research. Brain chemistry, hormones, genetics, life experiences and physical health can all play a role.

If no intervention takes place, eventually kids can develop what is known as "learned helplessness." Learned helplessness means that the targets of bullying believe that they cannot do anything to change the situation. As a result, they stop trying. Then, the cycle down into depression becomes more severe. This leads to a feeling of hopelessness and the belief that there is no way out.

As bullied kids grow into adults , they may continue to struggle with self-esteem, have difficulty developing and maintaining relationships, and avoid social interactions. They also may have a hard time trusting people, which can impact their personal relationships and their work relationships.

They may even start to believe lies about bullying , such as convincing themselves that the bullying wasn't as bad as they remember. They also may engage in self-blame.

Aside from the bumps and bruises that occur during physical bullying , there are additional physical costs. For instance, bullied kids often experience anxiety .   This stress on their bodies also will result in a variety of health issues, including being sick more often and suffering from ulcers and other conditions caused by persistent anxiety.

Bullied kids also may complain of stomachaches and headaches.   And the bullying they experience may aggravate other pre-existing conditions like eczema. Skin conditions, stomach issues, and heart conditions that are aggravated by stress all worsen when a child is being bullied.

Kids who are bullied often suffer academically, too. Bullied kids struggle to focus on their schoolwork. In fact, slipping grades is one of the first signs that a child is being bullied . Kids also may be so pre-occupied by bullying that they forget about assignments or have difficulty paying attention in class.

Additionally, bullied kids may skip school or classes in order to avoid being bullied. This practice also can result is falling grades. And when grades begin to drop this adds to the stress levels the bullied child is already experiencing.

A study conducted by the University of Virginia showed that kids who attend a school with a severe climate of bullying often have lower scores on standardized tests. Bullying even impacts students who witness it.

For instance, kids scored lower on standardized tests in schools with a lot of bullying than kids in schools with effective anti-bullying programs. One possible reason for the lower scores in schools with pervasive bullying is that students are often less engaged in the learning process because they are too distracted by or worried about the bullying.

Additionally, teachers may be less effective because they must spend so much time focused on classroom management and discipline instead of teaching. The good news is with proper support and intervention, most kids targeted by bullies will overcome bullying and things will get back to normal. But left unchecked, bullying can cause the victim to pay a high cost in long-term consequences.

When a child is bullied, it is not uncommon for the parents and siblings to also be affected. Parents often experience a wide range of consequences including feeling powerless to fix the situation. They also may feel alone and isolated. And they may even become obsessed with the situation often at the expense of their own health and wellbeing.

It also is not uncommon for parents to feel a sense of failure when their child is bullied.

Not only do they feel like they failed to protect the child from bullying, but they also may question their parenting abilities. They may even worry that they somehow missed the signs of bullying or that they did not do enough to bully-proof their child along the way.

The truth is that no one can predict who bullies will target . Parents can do everything right and still find out that their child is being bullied. As a result, they should never feel responsible for the choices a bully makes. Instead, they should place the blame where it belongs and focus on helping their child heal from bullying.

Research shows that the effects of bullying last well into adulthood . In fact, one study found that the consequences of being bullied by peers may have a greater impact on mental health in adulthood than originally thought. What's more, the impact may be even more significant than being mistreated by adults .

Remember, the experiences that people have while they are children help mold them into the adults that they later become. So it is not surprising that the effects of bullying linger well into adulthood. This then helps to influence their future mindset, including how they view themselves and others.

How Kids Can Heal

When a child is bullied, the road to recovery may be more challenging than you might originally think. In fact, the effects of bullying can stick around long after the bullying has ended. Moreover, if bullying is not addressed right away , then it can cause problems for your child later in life.

In order for your child to heal from bullying, there are several important steps you must take. These include not only changing the way your children think about the situation, but also how they view themselves after being bullied.

You want to be sure your child does not allow the bullying they experienced to define them. Instead, they should focus on what they learned and what their future goals are. To start, your child needs to acknowledge what happened to them but not focus on it. Instead, they should be focused on taking care of themself and growing as a person.

It's also important to help your child find closure for the situation. And as counterintuitive as it sounds, forgiving the bully goes a long way in freeing your child from the pain of the experience. Remind them that revenge will not make them feel better. Instead, they should let go of what happened to them and focus on the things they can control in their life.

Having a counselor help your child with the recovery process may speed things along. Talk to your child's pediatrician for suggestions about who to contact in your area.

How Adults Can Heal From Childhood Bullying

When a child is bullied, they can experience a psychological impact that does not go away simply because the person grows up.   If you were bullied as a child and are still experiencing the side effects, the first step toward recovery from childhood bullying is acknowledging what happened to you.

Do not dismiss what happened to you or minimize the severity. Be truthful with yourself about the pain you experienced.

You also need to make healing a priority. Take time to take care of yourself and consider talking with a counselor about your experience. A counselor can help you make sense of your feelings and move past the negative experience of bullying. He also can help you reframe your thinking and reclaim control over your life.

While it may be painful to think about the bullying you experienced as a kid, if it is still impacting your everyday life and the way you view yourself, then it is best to face the issue head-on. Once you have come to terms with what you experienced and changed the way you view yourself and others, you will be on your way to recovery.

It may take some time. So be patient with yourself. With a little hard work, though, you will be well on your way to a healthier way of thinking.

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Understanding the 'empathy gap' .

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Effects of Bullying .

Gini G, Pozzoli T. Bullied children and psychosomatic problems: a meta-analysis . Pediatrics . 2013;132(4):720-729. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0614

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Warning Signs for Bullying .

American Psychological Association. Bullying May Contribute to Lower Test Scores .

Copeland WE, Wolke D, Angold A, Costello EJ. Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence . JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(4):419-426. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.504

By Sherri Gordon Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert. 

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Cyberbullying: Everything You Need to Know

  • Cyberbullying
  • How to Respond

Cyberbullying is the act of intentionally and consistently mistreating or harassing someone through the use of electronic devices or other forms of electronic communication (like social media platforms).

Because cyberbullying mainly affects children and adolescents, many brush it off as a part of growing up. However, cyberbullying can have dire mental and emotional consequences if left unaddressed.

This article discusses cyberbullying, its adverse effects, and what can be done about it.

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Cyberbullying Statistics and State Laws

The rise of digital communication methods has paved the way for a new type of bullying to form, one that takes place outside of the schoolyard. Cyberbullying follows kids home, making it much more difficult to ignore or cope.


As many as 15% of young people between 12 and 18 have been cyberbullied at some point. However, over 25% of children between 13 and 15 were cyberbullied in one year alone.

About 6.2% of people admitted that they’ve engaged in cyberbullying at some point in the last year. The age at which a person is most likely to cyberbully one of their peers is 13.

Those subject to online bullying are twice as likely to self-harm or attempt suicide . The percentage is much higher in young people who identify as LGBTQ, at 56%.

Cyberbullying by Sex and Sexual Orientation

Cyberbullying statistics differ among various groups, including:

  • Girls and boys reported similar numbers when asked if they have been cyberbullied, at 23.7% and 21.9%, respectively.
  • LGBTQ adolescents report cyberbullying at higher rates, at 31.7%. Up to 56% of young people who identify as LGBTQ have experienced cyberbullying.
  • Transgender teens were the most likely to be cyberbullied, at a significantly high rate of 35.4%.

State Laws 

The laws surrounding cyberbullying vary from state to state. However, all 50 states have developed and implemented specific policies or laws to protect children from being cyberbullied in and out of the classroom.

The laws were put into place so that students who are being cyberbullied at school can have access to support systems, and those who are being cyberbullied at home have a way to report the incidents.

Legal policies or programs developed to help stop cyberbullying include:

  • Bullying prevention programs
  • Cyberbullying education courses for teachers
  • Procedures designed to investigate instances of cyberbullying
  • Support systems for children who have been subject to cyberbullying 

Are There Federal Laws Against Cyberbullying?

There are no federal laws or policies that protect people from cyberbullying. However, federal involvement may occur if the bullying overlaps with harassment. Federal law will get involved if the bullying concerns a person’s race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.

Examples of Cyberbullying 

There are several types of bullying that can occur online, and they all look different.

Harassment can include comments, text messages, or threatening emails designed to make the cyberbullied person feel scared, embarrassed, or ashamed of themselves.

Other forms of harassment include:

  • Using group chats as a way to gang up on one person
  • Making derogatory comments about a person based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or other characteristics
  • Posting mean or untrue things on social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, as a way to publicly hurt the person experiencing the cyberbullying  


A person may try to pretend to be the person they are cyberbullying to attempt to embarrass, shame, or hurt them publicly. Some examples of this include:

  • Hacking into someone’s online profile and changing any part of it, whether it be a photo or their "About Me" portion, to something that is either harmful or inappropriate
  • Catfishing, which is when a person creates a fake persona to trick someone into a relationship with them as a joke or for their own personal gain
  • Making a fake profile using the screen name of their target to post inappropriate or rude remarks on other people’s pages

Other Examples

Not all forms of cyberbullying are the same, and cyberbullies use other tactics to ensure that their target feels as bad as possible. Some tactics include:

  • Taking nude or otherwise degrading photos of a person without their consent
  • Sharing or posting nude pictures with a wide audience to embarrass the person they are cyberbullying
  • Sharing personal information about a person on a public website that could cause them to feel unsafe
  • Physically bullying someone in school and getting someone else to record it so that it can be watched and passed around later
  • Circulating rumors about a person

How to Know When a Joke Turns Into Cyberbullying

People may often try to downplay cyberbullying by saying it was just a joke. However, any incident that continues to make a person feel shame, hurt, or blatantly disrespected is not a joke and should be addressed. People who engage in cyberbullying tactics know that they’ve crossed these boundaries, from being playful to being harmful.

Effects and Consequences of Cyberbullying 

Research shows many negative effects of cyberbullying, some of which can lead to severe mental health issues. Cyberbullied people are twice as likely to experience suicidal thoughts, actions, or behaviors and engage in self-harm as those who are not.

Other negative health consequences of cyberbullying are:

  • Stomach pain and digestive issues
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulties with academics
  • Violent behaviors
  • High levels of stress
  • Inability to feel safe
  • Feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness

If You’ve Been Cyberbullied 

Being on the receiving end of cyberbullying is hard to cope with. It can feel like you have nowhere to turn and no escape. However, some things can be done to help overcome cyberbullying experiences.

Advice for Preteens and Teenagers

The best thing you can do if you’re being cyberbullied is tell an adult you trust. It may be challenging to start the conversation because you may feel ashamed or embarrassed. However, if it is not addressed, it can get worse.

Other ways you can cope with cyberbullying include:

  • Walk away : Walking away online involves ignoring the bullies, stepping back from your computer or phone, and finding something you enjoy doing to distract yourself from the bullying.
  • Don’t retaliate : You may want to defend yourself at the time. But engaging with the bullies can make matters worse.
  • Keep evidence : Save all copies of the cyberbullying, whether it be posts, texts, or emails, and keep them if the bullying escalates and you need to report them.
  • Report : Social media sites take harassment seriously, and reporting them to site administrators may block the bully from using the site.
  • Block : You can block your bully from contacting you on social media platforms and through text messages.

In some cases, therapy may be a good option to help cope with the aftermath of cyberbullying.

Advice for Parents

As a parent, watching your child experience cyberbullying can be difficult. To help in the right ways, you can:

  • Offer support and comfort : Listening to your child explain what's happening can be helpful. If you've experienced bullying as a child, sharing that experience may provide some perspective on how it can be overcome and that the feelings don't last forever.
  • Make sure they know they are not at fault : Whatever the bully uses to target your child can make them feel like something is wrong with them. Offer praise to your child for speaking up and reassure them that it's not their fault.
  • Contact the school : Schools have policies to protect children from bullying, but to help, you have to inform school officials.
  • Keep records : Ask your child for all the records of the bullying and keep a copy for yourself. This evidence will be helpful to have if the bullying escalates and further action needs to be taken.
  • Try to get them help : In many cases, cyberbullying can lead to mental stress and sometimes mental health disorders. Getting your child a therapist gives them a safe place to work through their experience.

In the Workplace 

Although cyberbullying more often affects children and adolescents, it can also happen to adults in the workplace. If you are dealing with cyberbullying at your workplace, you can:

  • Let your bully know how what they said affected you and that you expect it to stop.
  • Keep copies of any harassment that goes on in the workplace.
  • Report your cyberbully to your human resources (HR) department.
  • Report your cyberbully to law enforcement if you are being threatened.
  • Close off all personal communication pathways with your cyberbully.
  • Maintain a professional attitude at work regardless of what is being said or done.
  • Seek out support through friends, family, or professional help.

Effective Action Against Cyberbullying

If cyberbullying continues, actions will have to be taken to get it to stop, such as:

  • Talking to a school official : Talking to someone at school may be difficult, but once you do, you may be grateful that you have some support. Schools have policies to address cyberbullying.
  • Confide in parents or trusted friends : Discuss your experience with your parents or others you trust. Having support on your side will make you feel less alone.
  • Report it on social media : Social media sites have strict rules on the types of interactions and content sharing allowed. Report your aggressor to the site to get them banned and eliminate their ability to contact you.
  • Block the bully : Phones, computers, and social media platforms contain options to block correspondence from others. Use these blocking tools to help free yourself from cyberbullying.

Help Is Available

If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, dial  988  to contact the  988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline  and connect with a trained counselor. To find mental health resources in your area, contact the  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline  at  800-662-4357  for information.

Cyberbullying occurs over electronic communication methods like cell phones, computers, social media, and other online platforms. While anyone can be subject to cyberbullying, it is most likely to occur between the ages of 12 and 18.

Cyberbullying can be severe and lead to serious health issues, such as new or worsened mental health disorders, sleep issues, or thoughts of suicide or self-harm. There are laws to prevent cyberbullying, so it's essential to report it when it happens. Coping strategies include stepping away from electronics, blocking bullies, and getting.

Alhajji M, Bass S, Dai T. Cyberbullying, mental health, and violence in adolescents and associations with sex and race: data from the 2015 youth risk behavior survey . Glob Pediatr Health. 2019;6:2333794X19868887. doi:10.1177/2333794X19868887

Cyberbullying Research Center. Cyberbullying in 2021 by age, gender, sexual orientation, and race .

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: StopBullying.gov. Facts about bullying .

John A, Glendenning AC, Marchant A, et al. Self-harm, suicidal behaviours, and cyberbullying in children and young people: systematic review .  J Med Internet Res . 2018;20(4):e129. doi:10.2196/jmir.9044

Cyberbullying Research Center. Bullying, cyberbullying, and LGBTQ students .

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: StopBullying.gov. Laws, policies, and regulations .

Wolke D, Lee K, Guy A. Cyberbullying: a storm in a teacup? . Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017;26(8):899-908. doi:10.1007/s00787-017-0954-6

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: StopBullying.gov. Cyberbullying tactics .

Garett R, Lord LR, Young SD. Associations between social media and cyberbullying: a review of the literature . mHealth . 2016;2:46-46. doi:10.21037/mhealth.2016.12.01

Nemours Teens Health. Cyberbullying .

Nixon CL. Current perspectives: the impact of cyberbullying on adolescent health . Adolesc Health Med Ther. 2014;5:143-58. doi:10.2147/AHMT.S36456

Nemours Kids Health. Cyberbullying (for parents) .

By Angelica Bottaro Bottaro has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and an Advanced Diploma in Journalism. She is based in Canada.

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David Brooks

The Courage to Follow the Evidence on Transgender Care

A photograph of a butterfly on a person’s hand.

By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

Hilary Cass is the kind of hero the world needs today. She has entered one of the most toxic debates in our culture: how the medical community should respond to the growing numbers of young people who seek gender transition through medical treatments, including puberty blockers and hormone therapies. This month, after more than three years of research, Cass, a pediatrician, produced a report , commissioned by the National Health Service in England, that is remarkable for its empathy for people on all sides of this issue, for its humility in the face of complex social trends we don’t understand and for its intellectual integrity as we try to figure out which treatments actually work to serve those patients who are in distress. With incredible courage, she shows that careful scholarship can cut through debates that have been marked by vituperation and intimidation and possibly reset them on more rational grounds.

Cass, a past president of Britain’s Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, is clear about the mission of her report: “This review is not about defining what it means to be trans, nor is it about undermining the validity of trans identities, challenging the right of people to express themselves or rolling back on people’s rights to health care. It is about what the health care approach should be, and how best to help the growing number of children and young people who are looking for support from the N.H.S. in relation to their gender identity.”

This issue begins with a mystery. For reasons that are not clear, the number of adolescents who have sought to medically change their sex has been skyrocketing in recent years, though the overall number remains very small. For reasons that are also not clear, adolescents who were assigned female at birth are driving this trend, whereas before the late 2000s, it was mostly adolescents who were assigned male at birth who sought these treatments.

Doctors and researchers have proposed various theories to try to explain these trends. One is that greater social acceptance of trans people has enabled people to seek these therapies. Another is that teenagers are being influenced by the popularity of searching and experimenting around identity. A third is that the rise of teen mental health issues may be contributing to gender dysphoria. In her report, Cass is skeptical of broad generalizations in the absence of clear evidence; these are individual children and adolescents who take their own routes to who they are.

Some activists and medical practitioners on the left have come to see the surge in requests for medical transitioning as a piece of the new civil rights issue of our time — offering recognition to people of all gender identities. Transition through medical interventions was embraced by providers in the United States and Europe after a pair of small Dutch studies showed that such treatment improved patients’ well-being. But a 2022 Reuters investigation found that some American clinics were quite aggressive with treatment: None of the 18 U.S. clinics that Reuters looked at performed long assessments on their patients, and some prescribed puberty blockers on the first visit.

Unfortunately, some researchers who questioned the Dutch approach were viciously attacked. This year, Sallie Baxendale, a professor of clinical neuropsychology at the University College London, published a review of studies looking at the impact of puberty blockers on brain development and concluded that “critical questions” about the therapy remain unanswered. She was immediately attacked. She recently told The Guardian, “I’ve been accused of being an anti-trans activist, and that now comes up on Google and is never going to go away.”

As Cass writes in her report, “The toxicity of the debate is exceptional.” She continues, “There are few other areas of health care where professionals are so afraid to openly discuss their views, where people are vilified on social media and where name-calling echoes the worst bullying behavior.”

Cass focused on Britain, but her description of the intellectual and political climate is just as applicable to the U.S., where brutality on the left has been matched by brutality on the right, with crude legislation that doesn’t acknowledge the well-being of the young people in question. In 24 states Republicans have passed laws banning these therapies, sometimes threatening doctors with prison time if they prescribe the treatment they think is best for their patients.

The battle lines on this issue are an extreme case, but they are not unfamiliar. On issue after issue, zealous minorities bully and intimidate the reasonable majority. Often, those who see nuance decide it’s best to just keep their heads down. The rage-filled minority rules.

Cass showed enormous courage in walking into this maelstrom. She did it in the face of practitioners who refused to cooperate and thus denied her information that could have helped inform her report. As an editorial in The BMJ puts it, “Despite encouragement from N.H.S. England,” the “necessary cooperation” was not forthcoming. “Professionals withholding data from a national inquiry seems hard to imagine, but it is what happened.”

Cass’s report does not contain even a hint of rancor, just a generous open-mindedness and empathy for all involved. Time and again in her report, she returns to the young people and the parents directly involved, on all sides of the issue. She clearly spent a lot of time meeting with them. She writes, “One of the great pleasures of the review has been getting to meet and talk to so many interesting people.”

The report’s greatest strength is its epistemic humility. Cass is continually asking, “What do we really know?” She is carefully examining the various studies — which are high quality, which are not. She is down in the academic weeds.

She notes that the quality of the research in this field is poor. The current treatments are “built on shaky foundations,” she writes in The BMJ. Practitioners have raced ahead with therapies when we don’t know what the effects will be. As Cass tells The BMJ, “I can’t think of another area of pediatric care where we give young people a potentially irreversible treatment and have no idea what happens to them in adulthood.”

She writes in her report, “The option to provide masculinizing/feminizing hormones from age 16 is available, but the review would recommend extreme caution.” She does not issue a blanket, one-size-fits-all recommendation, but her core conclusion is this: “For most young people, a medical pathway will not be the best way to manage their gender-related distress.” She realizes that this conclusion will not please many of the young people she has come to know, but this is where the evidence has taken her.

You can agree or disagree with this or that part of the report, and maybe the evidence will look different in 10 years, but I ask you to examine the integrity with which Cass did her work in such a treacherous environment.

In 1877 a British philosopher and mathematician named William Kingdon Clifford published an essay called “ The Ethics of Belief .” In it he argued that if a shipowner ignored evidence that his craft had problems and sent the ship to sea having convinced himself it was safe, then of course we would blame him if the ship went down and all aboard were lost. To have a belief is to bear responsibility, and one thus has a moral responsibility to dig arduously into the evidence, avoid ideological thinking and take into account self-serving biases. “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence,” Clifford wrote. A belief, he continued, is a public possession. If too many people believe things without evidence, “the danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.”

Since the Trump years, this habit of not consulting the evidence has become the underlying crisis in so many realms. People segregate into intellectually cohesive teams, which are always dumber than intellectually diverse teams. Issues are settled by intimidation, not evidence. Our natural human tendency is to be too confident in our knowledge, too quick to ignore contrary evidence. But these days it has become acceptable to luxuriate in those epistemic shortcomings, not to struggle against them. See, for example, the modern Republican Party.

Recently it’s been encouraging to see cases in which the evidence has won out. Many universities have acknowledged that the SAT is a better predictor of college success than high school grades and have reinstated it. Some corporations have come to understand that while diversity, equity and inclusion are essential goals, the current programs often empirically fail to serve those goals and need to be reformed. I’m hoping that Hilary Cass is modeling a kind of behavior that will be replicated across academia, in the other professions and across the body politic more generally and thus save us from spiraling into an epistemological doom loop.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .

David Brooks has been a columnist with The Times since 2003. He is the author, most recently,  of “How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen.” @ nytdavidbrooks

Home — Essay Samples — Social Issues — Bullying — Bullying In Schools: Causes, Effects, And Solutions


Bullying in Schools: Causes, Effects, and Solutions

  • Categories: Bullying Youth Violence

About this sample


Words: 1534 |

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 1534 | Pages: 3 | 8 min read

Works Cited

  • Bradshaw, C. P., Sawyer, A. L., & O'Brennan, L. M. (2007). Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, 36(3), 361-382.
  • Espelage, D. L., & Swearer, S. M. (2003). Research on school bullying and victimization: What have we learned and where do we go from here?. School Psychology Review, 32(3), 365-383.
  • Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2018). Cyberbullying fact sheet: Identification, prevention, and response. Cyberbullying Research Center.
  • National Bullying Prevention Center. (2021). Resources. https://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/
  • National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Student reports of bullying and cyberbullying: Results from the 2020–21 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. US Department of Education.
  • Olweus, D. (2013). School bullying: Development and some important challenges. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 751-780.
  • Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. (2020). School climate 2.0: Preventing cyberbullying and sexting one classroom at a time. Corwin Press.
  • StopBullying.gov. (2021). Prevent bullying. https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/index.html
  • Thompson, F., Smith, P. K., & Rigby, K. (2022). Addressing bullying in schools: Theory and practice. Routledge.
  • Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: A systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 7(1), 27-56.

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effects of bullying on society essay

Ozempic Hurts the Fight Against Eating Disorders

Weight Loss Drugs As US Prescriptions Skyrocket

I t’s impossible to escape the soaring popularity of Ozempic and similar drugs these days—daily headlines, celebrity “success” stories, and apparent ease in procuring prescriptions (even Costco sells them now) abound. But the cumulative effect of all of this has many experts in the eating disorder field worried about how this might affect their patients. This makes sense—even for those without eating disorders, these drugs can feel both triggering and enticing. After all, research tells us about 90% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies. This sounds like a quick fix.

Then, I started hearing reports—first anecdotal, then published —that some doctors were prescribing weight loss drugs like Ozempic to their patients with eating disorders. As in, to help treat them.

As a journalist who has extensively researched the harms of eating disorders and the barriers to recovery—and as a woman who had suffered from eating disorders on and off for much of my own life—I thought I must have misunderstood. Yes, we as a society are in the midst of Ozempic Fever—and by “fever,” I’m referring to excitement, rather than a possible side effect of the drug (which it is). Researchers are continuing to find new potential applications for these drugs, initially developed to treat type 2 diabetes. In March, the FDA approved a new indication for the weight-loss drug Wegovy (which has the same active ingredient as Ozempic), allowing it to be used as a treatment to reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. Ozempic, a diabetes drug, used off-label for weight loss, is also being studied to treat anxiety and depression , polycystic ovary syndrome, substance abuse, Alzheimer’s , and now—eating disorders.

Read More: Ozempic Exposed the Cracks in the Body Positivity Movement

It’s early days and research hasn’t yet caught up with the enthusiasm.  But our cultural misunderstanding of eating disorders, even by well-meaning practitioners, could exacerbate the illnesses for those who suffer from them—and have dire consequences.

The new class of weight loss drugs mimics the body’s GLP-1 hormone , stimulating insulin production, and lowering blood sugar levels, helpful to those with type 2 diabetes. The drugs also curb appetite and slow the speed that food moves into the small intestine—you feel full more quickly and eat less. Many patients without eating disorders who take these drugs, have reported a reduction of “food noise” in their minds—referring to obsessive thoughts and preoccupation with food. (Though, as philosopher Kate Manne wisely posited in a recent New York Times piece , isn’t “food noise,” simply, hunger?)

For folks suffering from binge eating disorder (BED) or bulimia nervosa (BN), a drug that decreases appetite may seem to make sense. Both illnesses are characterized by eating large amounts of food, eating until uncomfortably full, and feeling distress around that (bulimia is distinguished by purging after a binge).

Binge eating often emerges as part of a cycle of restriction—dieting, fasting, or eliminating entire food groups—like carbs, for example. “Many people struggling with BED view the binge episodes as the problem and the restriction as something to strive for,” said Alexis Conason, a psychologist specializing in the treatment of binge eating disorder. “When people with BED take a GLP-1 medication that dampens their appetite, many are excited that they can be ‘better’ at restriction and consume very little throughout the day.” Subsequently, Conason adds, there is a dangerous potential for BED to then morph into anorexia, starving oneself with possibly life-threatening complications.

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that aren’t yet fully understood, even by experts in the field. Underneath the behaviors around food is often an intricate web of trauma, anxiety, and even genetic predisposition, all set against the backdrop of a culture that prizes thinness . Low weight is frequently (incorrectly) conflated with good health, and people in larger bodies are often subjected to bullying, negative stereotypes, and discrimination in the workplace .

Read More: Ozempic Gets the Oprah Treatment in a New TV Special

Emerging research strongly supports that for many, eating disorders are brain-based illnesses and in most cases, there exists a co-morbidity like anxiety, mood disorders, or substance abuse.

“GLP-1’s can’t help someone deal with their stress, anxiety, [and] trauma-history,” said psychologist Cynthia Bulik, one of the world’s leading eating disorder researchers, and Founding Director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence of Eating Disorders. “All of that background distress—fundamental distress that might be driving the BED in the first place—is temporarily bypassed by removing the desire to eat.”

Nearly 30 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime, but only about 6% of those are medically diagnosed as “underweight,” according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. This means that a person may exhibit all of the diagnostic hallmarks of anorexia, for example, extreme restriction and even malnourishment, but still present as average weight or even overweight. They may even be told by a physician to lose weight, despite the fact that they are already going to dangerous extremes to chase that “goal.”

“We tend to think that everyone in a larger body with an eating disorder must have BED and everyone in a smaller body must have anorexia, but this couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Conason. “So many people with BED seek help in weight loss settings instead of seeking eating disorder treatment; many view the problem as their weight and think they need more help sticking to their diet” when in reality, an end to the restriction would more likely regulate their eating.

It’s much easier to get weight loss treatment than help for an eating disorder. There is no standard of care for eating disorders in this country and treatment is unregulated. While there are some promising, evidenced-based treatments (cognitive behavioral therapy for adults, and family-based treatment for children and teens), they don’t work for everyone. If a person is fortunate to be diagnosed and receive adequate treatment, relapses are common and full recovery can be elusive.

Further, these drugs are often intended to be taken for a person’s entire life. “When they go off the drug, or can’t access it due to supply problems, the urge to binge comes right back and they have not developed any psychological (or) behavioral skills to manage the urge,” Bulik told me. Just like with a diet, any lost weight will likely be regained when a person stops taking the drugs. Weight fluctuations, themselves ,may increase a person’s risk of chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, according to multiple studies.

“The focus on weight and erasing the desire to eat could indeed do harm,” cautioned Bulik. “The potential for abuse is high and will become higher with new preparations that don’t require an injection … Remember, these drugs are ‘for life.’ Stop them, and everything comes rushing back.”

The long-term side effects of GLP-1’s are not yet known. But the harms of eating disorders are: eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness (second only to opioid overdose). People with eating disorders are more likely to attempt suicide, and during COVID-19, emergency room visits and inpatient admissions for eating disorders at pediatric hospitals skyrocketed, particularly for young women. According to the CDC, emergency room visits for 12-17 year old girls who suffer from eating disorders doubled during the pandemic. Those numbers, as shown by recent studies , have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

An even greater concern is that the gaps in comprehensive care for eating disorders invite experimental, potentially harmful treatments and leave patients vulnerable. GLP-1’s may seem like a short-term “fix,” but they won’t graze the deeper issues nor will they diminish the eating disorder crisis in this country. And it is a crisis—every year, eating disorders cost the U.S. more than $65 billion .

I know too well that if a doctor advises their patient with an eating disorder “here’s something to make you eat less” most patients would happily oblige. That’s part of the pathology of the illness. It’s the eating disorder talking. Ideally, it wouldn’t be your doctor’s voice, too.

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  24. Cyberbullying: Examples, Negative Effects, How to Stop It

    Research shows many negative effects of cyberbullying, some of which can lead to severe mental health issues. Cyberbullied people are twice as likely to experience suicidal thoughts, actions, or behaviors and engage in self-harm as those who are not. Other negative health consequences of cyberbullying are: Depression. Anxiety.

  25. Opinion

    1334. By David Brooks. Opinion Columnist. Hilary Cass is the kind of hero the world needs today. She has entered one of the most toxic debates in our culture: how the medical community should ...

  26. Bullying in Schools: Causes, Effects, and Solutions

    Society has slowly started to become more aware of this and have already begun taking action. There have been measures performed in schools and even in the government to prevent, assist, or completely stop the heinous acts of bullying. To discuss the theme of bullying in schools, this essay analyzes the main causes, effects, and solutions to ...

  27. Ozempic Hurts the Fight Against Eating Disorders

    Ozempic, a diabetes drug, used off-label for weight loss, is also being studied to treat anxiety and depression, polycystic ovary syndrome, substance abuse, Alzheimer's, and now—eating ...