Journal scan

Being bullied at 13 may increase risk of depression in later life

People who are bullied in their early teens may be more likely to be depressed by the time they are 18, suggests a large UK study.

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Researchers at the University of Oxford analysed data on 3,898 participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Participants completed a self-report questionnaire at 13 years about bullying and, aged 18, underwent an assessment to identify depressive illness.

A total of 683 teenagers reported being bullied more than once a week when they were 13; of these, 14.8% were depressed at 18. Of the 1,446 teenagers who experienced bullying one to three times over six months at 13 years, 7.1% were depressed at the age of 18. Only 5.5% of those who had not experienced bullying went on to develop depression.

When other risk factors for depression were taken into account, frequently bullied teenagers still had around a two-fold increase in odds of depression compared with those who had not experienced bullying. The association was the same for males and females.

The most common type of bullying was name-calling (36%).

Most teenagers did not tell a teacher or a parent they were being bullied.

While no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, the authors conclude that interventions to reduce bullying in schools could reduce depression in later life.

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