Skip to content

    Health & Parenting

    Font Size

    Bullied Teens Bear Mental Scars

    WebMD Health News

    Sept. 5, 2001 -- It may be time to revise an old schoolyard rhyme to say: sticks and stones may break my bones, and names can really hurt me.

    Teenagers who are the targets of repeated taunts, threats, and/or physical violence in school are more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression, and girls appear to be particularly vulnerable, say Australian researchers who studied the effects of bullying on the mental health status of teens.

    Among more than 2,600 secondary school students in Victoria, Australia, who were surveyed about bullying at age 13 and again a year later, about half reported being teased, having rumors spread about them, being deliberately excluded from a group, or experiencing physical threats or violence.

    Two-thirds of those who were victimized were bullied more than once, and a history of bullying was found to be a good predictor for later self-reported depression and anxiety, write Lyndal Bond, PhD, and colleagues in the Sept. 1 issue of the British Medical Journal.

    "It's good to see this research coming out in structured medical journals, because for too long we've seen this as just a normal aspect of child development, rather than a traumatic event," says bullying expert William S. Pollack, PhD, assistant clinical professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston and director of the Center for Men at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. "Bullying, teasing, and harassment are psychological and psychiatric traumas ... [that can lead to] anxiety, depression, dysfunction, nightmares, and later, incapacity to function actively and healthfully as an adult."

    The researchers surveyed students about bullying in grade 8 (average age 13 years old) at the beginning and end of the school year, and followed up one year later at the end of grade 9. The survey also included a standard psychiatric evaluation for symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.

    The researchers write that the "effect of bullying on mental health status is clearest for girls. That is, being victimized has a significant impact on the future emotional well-being of young adolescent girls independent of their social relations but does not for boys. This finding may be due to a real difference in the boys' response to victimization or to the small number of boys reporting symptoms of depression."

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
    mother and daughter talking
    child brushing his teeth
    Sipping hot tea
    boy drinking from cereal bowl
    hand holding a cell phone
    rl with friends
    girl being bullied
    Child with adhd