People who suffered from bullying as young adults are twice as likely to suffer from depression when they get older, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Oxford asked nearly 3,900 subjects when they were 13 years old whether or not they were bullied, and if so, how often. When the subjects turned 18, the researchers interviewed them about their mental health.
The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children found that of the 680 13 year olds who said they were bullied more than once a week, 15% were depressed at 18. Of the 1,450 teenagers who were bulled one to three times over six months, just over 7% were depressed as older teens.
In comparison, only 5.5% of teens who weren’t bullied when they were 13 were depressed at 18.
After analyzing the data, the researchers say that these findings suggest a significant portion of depression cases can be linked to childhood bullying.
“In our study we found that up to 30% of depression in our sample of 18 year olds may be attributed to being bullied as a teenager, if this link is indeed causal,” study author Lucy Bowes told Forbes. “This means that anti-bullying interventions in the teenage years could potentially have a big impact in reducing depression in the general adult population.”
Combatting bullying can be difficult. Much like depression, bullying can be a bit of an invisible problem. More than four out of five depressed individuals don’t seek out professional help, while less than 30% of boys and 40% of girls will talk about bullying to their peers by age 14. If no one knows there’s a problem, no one can help.
The National Center For Victims of Crime suggests that a youth who is being bullied tell his or her parents and discusses how they can help him or her be safe, tell a teacher or counselor who can take action, find out the school’s policy on bullying to see how it can help his or her case.
The agency also suggests that anyone who sees someone being bullied should get a teacher or parent to help, talk to the victim, and report the incident to the proper authority.
Sadly, a review of studies from 13 countries by the Yale School of Medicine found an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied, and suicide. In other words, taking action against bullying could potentially save someone’s life.