A new study from King’s College in London claims that children who were bullied at school are twice as likely to be overweight at the age of 18 compared to kids who weren't bullied.

To reach these findings, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers analyzed interviews with 2,000 adults who have been part of the Environment Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study since they were children in the 1960s. Researchers measured participant’s body mass index (BMI) and waist-hip ratio, an indicator of abdominal fat, at age 18.

Children who were chronically bullied in school were 1.7 times more likely to be overweight as young adults than their peers who were not bullied at all, according to a recent statement.

Read: Nightmares About Bullying: 36% Of Kids With Sleep Problems Are Victims Of Bullying

These findings also revealed that overweight children were not simply more likely to fall victim to bullying. Environmental risk factors, such as socioeconomic status, food poverty, child abuse, low IQ, and poor mental health did not impact these figures.

“Although we cannot definitively say that bullying victimization causes individuals to become overweight, ruling out alternative explanations, such as genetic liability, strengthens the likelihood that this is the case. If the association is causal, preventing bullying could help to reduce the prevalence of overweight in the population,” said researcher Jessie Baldwin, according to the statement.

“As well as preventing bullying, our findings emphasise the importance of supporting bullied children to prevent them from becoming overweight, which could include interventions aimed at promoting exercise and healthy eating,” Baldwin explained. “Our data suggest that such interventions should start early in life."

Source: Baldwin JR, Arseneault L, Odgers C, Belsky D, Matthews T, Ambler A, et al. Childhood Bullying Victimization and Overweight in Young Adulthood: A Cohort Study. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2016.

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