Bullying has long been “just a part of growing up,” until recently, when it shot to the forefront of public discourse because of a few highly publicized bullying incidents which were taken to another level because of the victim’s sexual preferences. Although previous research has shown that children who are victims to bullying are more likely to have problems in school, with depression, and with their overall health, very little research has looked into its effects years later. A new study, however, wanted to examine exactly that, and found that victims are likely to have issues with their wealth, health, and social life.

"We cannot continue to dismiss bullying as a harmless, almost inevitable, part of growing up,” Professor Dieter Wolke, of the University of Warwick, in the UK, said in a statement. “We need to change this mindset and acknowledge this as a serious problem for both the individual and the country as a whole; the effects are long-lasting and significant."

Bullying's Long-Term Consequences

Researchers looked at the effects of bullying among victims, the bullies, and those who fell into the so-called category, “bully-victims.” They looked at bullying among a group of 1,420 children and adolescents four to six times when they were between nine and 16 years old and then when 24 to 26 years old.

Bully-victims were defined as the group of people that were bullied when younger, but became the bullies as they got older. Their lack of emotional regulation or support with coping as children, the researchers said, led them to be up to six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly, or develop psychiatric disorders. Children who were just bullied were more than two times as likely to develop these same problems as adults, even when family hardships and childhood psychiatric disorders were accounted for.

“In the case of bully-victims, it shows how bullying can spread when left untreated,” Wolke said in the statement. “Some interventions are already available in schools but new tools are needed to help health professionals identify, monitor and deal with the ill-effects of bullying.”

Meanwhile, “pure” bullies experienced few effects from bullying as children. Although they were more likely to have family hardships and psychiatric disorders as children, bullying, itself, didn’t have any negative effects on their outcomes. Bullies, Wolke says, already have prevailing antisocial tendencies, and they simply know how to get “under the skin of others.” He says that by finding ways to remove their need to bully others, parents, school officials, and policy-makers will be able to “protect the many children suffering at the hand of bullies as they are the ones who are hindered later in life.”  

Bullying Is More Severe Today 

With the growth of technology, bullying has taken on a new level of severity. It’s not just about calling others names or pushing them around now. Teens can easily send a sext message from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend to numerous other school mates, causing the subject of those sexts to feel shame, at the least. In Rome, a 14-year-old boy committed suicide after being subjected to anti-gay bullying. In the U.S., Tyler Clementi brought attention to anti-gay bullying when he committed suicide after discovering that his roommate had secretly streamed video of his sexual encounters with another man over the internet.

According to StopBullying.gov, 28 percent of children between 12 and 18 years old were bullied in school during the 2008-2009 school year. Nineteen percent were made fun of, and 16 percent were the subjects of spread rumors.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) youth are at an even higher risk.