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Early adulthood depression linked to bullying

Bullying in teenage years is strongly associated with depression later on in life, suggests new research.

One of the largest to examine the association between bullying by peers in teenage years and depression in early adulthood, the study, Maternal Sensitivity in Parenting Preterm Children: A Meta-analysis published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), examined the relationship between bullying at 13 years and depression at 18 years.

The research team, which included Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick and led by Professor Lucy Bowes of the University of Oxford, analysed bullying and depression data for just under 4,000 young people.

The participants completed a self-report questionnaire at 13 years about bullying and at 18 years completed a computerised interview assessment that identified individuals who met internationally agreed criteria for depressive illness.

Of the 683 teenagers who reported frequent bullying at more than once a week at 13 years, 14.8% were depressed at 18 years. And of the 1446 teenagers who had some bullying of 1-3 times over six months at 13 years, 7.1% were depressed at 18 years.

Only 5.5% of teenagers who did not experience bullying were depressed at 18 years.

Around 10.1% of frequently bullied teenagers experienced depression for more than two years, compared with 4.1% from the non-bullied group.

Overall, 2668 participants had data on bullying and depression as well as other factors that may have caused depression such as previous bullying in childhood, mental and behavioural problems, family set up and stressful life events.

When these factors were taken into account, frequently bullied teenagers still had around a twofold increase in odds of depression compared with those who did not experience bullying. This association was the same for both males and females.

The study is released as Professor Wolke is to appear at The Cheltenham Science Festival part of the Times Cheltenham Festivals. He will be hosting two discussions: What if cyberbullying is an overrated phenomenon?; and Siblings and peers; Making your life a misery? The talks will be taking place on Wednesday 3 June.

Professor Wolke said: “This study highlights the need for action to deal with bullying beyond the school gate to prevent the development of depression in young people.”

“We often hear in the media of teenagers being subjected to cyberbullying. At the festival I’ll be exploring this and the effect siblings and peers have on their mental and physical well-being even as an adult.”

PR 115 3/6/15


Tom Frew, International Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)247 657 5910

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Email: a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk