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Heart problems and diabetes down the road for victims of bullying

bulliedThe role of being bullied in childhood on adult health has once more come under the spotlight, as new evidence shows a potential increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases for victims.

C-Reactive Protein (CRP) levels in the blood increase with advancing age from childhood to adulthood and the higher these levels in the body, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and psychological disorders. Researchers were able to show that being bullied in childhood led to increased systemic low-grade inflammation in adulthood.

CRP levels in the blood plasma rise in response to inflammation, so tracking the levels through childhood into adulthood provides insight into the short and long term effects of exposure to bullying.

Professor Dieter Wolke, co-author of the study from the University of Warwick, explained, “What we see is that being chronically bullied over a number of years increases inflammation in childhood. The effects are still found in adulthood though, with those reporting being bullied in childhood having CRP levels more than double those who hadn’t experienced bullying at all.”

“Bullying truly gets under the skin, the idea that it can directly affect the risk of heart disease or diabetes is further evidence that we must develop early interventions.”

CRP levels increased over time throughout the study group, but being bullied predicted higher increases.

Dr William Copeland, author of the study from Duke University Medical Center, added, “We know there are numerous adverse impacts of being bullied, but looking at CRP levels we have uncovered a truly significant risk to physical health.”

“Most astonishingly, those who were the bullies had lower increases in CRP levels from child- to adulthood than those who had no involvement at all. The elevated social status that can come with being a bully appears to protect against the ill effects of stress, so physically they appear to be healthier.”

The study controlled for other contributing factors such as body mass index, substance use, physical and mental health and psychosocial adversities.

The study, published in PNAS, was conducted by researchers at the University of Warwick, Duke University Medical Center, University of North Carolina and Emory University.

1,420 people from the Great Smoky Mountains Study were studied repeatedly between the ages of 9 and 16, before being reassessed in young adulthood.

Notes to editors:

For further information, a copy of the full paper, or to arrange interviews with Professor Wolke, contact Luke Harrison, Press Officer, on +44 (0) 2476 574255/150483 or +44 (0) 7920531221, or by email on