Being bullied during teen years is linked to health problems in adulthood, a new study says. Researchers found that physical and emotional bullying are tied to problems like abdominal pain, backaches, headaches, poor body image and dizziness in adulthood.

Alanna D. Hager of the Metropolitan State University of Denver and Bonnie J. Leadbeater of the University of Victoria in British Columbia wanted to explore if bullying can cause short- and long-term effects on the physical health of children and adolescents when they become adults.

Their research featured in the Journal of Adolescent Health involved 662 Canadian adolescents 12 to 19 years old at the beginning of the study. Hager and Leadbeater followed the study participants for a decade and collected data through the Victoria Healthy Youth Survey conducted every two years from 2003 to 2014.

They found that both physical and emotional bullying were associated with physical health issues in adulthood. Even verbal taunting could lead to physical problems in the future, the researchers reported.

Evaluating The Extent Of Bullying

In their study, the researchers assessed the degree of bullying experienced by the participants through a total of six interviews. The participants were asked how often they got pushed by peers and how often peers spread lies about them to make others hate or dislike them.

To assess for physical symptoms, the researchers asked the participants to rate how often they experienced problems like headaches, insomnia, dizziness and abdominal pain. Body image was assessed by asking participants to rate how proud or uncomfortable they were with the development of their body.

After the series of six interviews, around 29 to 52 percent of the male participants and 20 to 29 percent of the female respondents reported experiencing being bullied physically at least sometimes.

In terms of emotional taunting, 28 to 67 percent of males and 37 to 54 percent of females reported experiencing this type of bullying. Of the total respondents, 1 to 2 percent said they were bullied all of the time.

Health Problems Experienced Over Time

The researchers noted that throughout the course of the study, the female respondents reported experiencing more physical health issues and poor body image than the males.

"As expected, both relational and physical victimization were associated with greater physical symptoms and poorer physical self-concept concurrently and with physical self-concept over time," the researchers wrote. "Relational victimization, which occurred more frequently, also predicted physical symptoms across young adulthood."

"These health problems, be it depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, or poor self-concepts, can interfere with several life domains including academic and occupational performance, relationship satisfaction, economic success and more severe health outcomes," Hager explained.

"The study highlights that early adolescence is a sensitive time for the implementation of intervention and prevention efforts that can curb trajectories of health problems for youth," Leadbeater added.

Bullying And Eating Disorders

In another study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers found that bullying may cause eating disorder symptoms in both the victims and the aggressors. They discovered that bullies had an increased risk of symptoms of bulimia while victims had a greater risk for symptoms of anorexia nervosa.

"Bullying predicts eating disorder symptoms for both bullies and victims. Bullying involvement should be a part of risk assessment and treatment planning for children with eating problems," the researchers noted.

Bullying Statistics

In recent years, bullying has become a growing predicament among today's youth. In fact, around 42 percent of kids have been bullied and 35 percent have been threatened while they were online. Statistics also show that an estimated 77 percent of students admitted they were victims of one type of bullying.

In the United States, 22 percent of students report being bullied during the school year. The most common reasons for being bullied were looks (55 percent), body shape (37 percent) and race (16 percent).

Parents and teachers may encounter students showing warning signs of being victims of bullying. These may include using health complaints to let them stay at home, having irregular sleeping patterns, having trouble concentrating in class, concealing the body with baggy clothes and escaping activities that might require them to change clothes such as gym class.

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