Researchers believe they've discovered a protein marker that may be the culprit in the long-term effects victims of bullying experience, such as depression and poor health, as being bullied spikes the protein's level.
The protein is C-reactive protein (CRP) and it's a marker of low-grade systemic inflammation. According to the research, bullied victims suffer from greater increases of inflammation as they move from childhood to young adulthood.
"In contrast, bullies showed lower increases in inflammation into adulthood compared with those uninvolved in bullying. Elevated systemic low-grade inflammation is a mechanism by which this common childhood social adversity may get under the skin to affect adult health functioning, even many years later," states the report.
The research focus was on how an adverse social experience, bullying in this case, is biologically tied to CRP levels and involved assessing levels in 1,420 children and teens ages 9 to 16.
While CRP normally increases in all children as they age, bullied children experience higher than normal levels.
"During childhood and adolescence, the number of waves at which the child was bullied predicted increasing levels of CRP. This pattern was robust, controlling for body mass index, substance use, physical and mental health status, and exposures to other childhood psychosocial adversities," explain the authors.
The effect of bullying was discovered to be immediate, and CRP levels increased along with the number of bullying incidents. The study reveals levels more than doubled in those bullied three times or more in the previous year, compared with those who were never bullied.
The new research report comes just within weeks of another report on childhood bullying and the havoc it can play on a child's adult years.
That research revealed those bullied as young children can suffer mental health, physical and social issues later in life. Adults bullied as children suffer physical, mental health and social issues even decades later, according to a new research report.
"Our study shows that the effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later. The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive, with health, social and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood," states Dr. Ryu Takizawa, lead author of the paper from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.
The news comes as schools, parents, educators and child safety advocates continue to advance antibullying programs in both educational settings and in social interaction activities. Bullying, especially online through social networks, has become even more prevalent and hard to eliminate, especially when the new technology lets bullies reach victims electronically, such as through texting.
The study focused on 7,771 children in Britain who were bullied at the ages of 7 and 11 and followed their lives through the age of 50. Results reveal those bullied were more likely to have poorer physical and cognitive functioning at the age of 50, and were also more susceptible to depression, anxiety disorders and even suicidal tendencies.
The bullied adults were more likely to be less educated, and more likely to be unemployed and earn less ias adults. They also seem to suffer more with establishing good relationships and reported lower quality of life and overall life satisfaction.
The study's author says the results reveal more work needs to be done to stop bullying among youth. It was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.