Bullied children have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart failure when they grow up, according to new research.
The study, conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, builds on previous research, which confirms that bullied children are more likely to experience mental health issues later in life.
The authors have called on schools and government to create more effective anti-bullying measures. While most schools work very hard to eradicate bullying, the study’s senior author identified a tendency to “neglect the victims and their suffering.”
The study provides further evidence that the causes of type 2 diabetes are complex and varied. Too often, type 2 diabetes is associated with poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. While these factors can and often do play a part, they are far from the only possible causes.
The researchers found that 26 per cent of women who had been bullied as children developed obesity by the age of 45. 19 per cent of those who were not bullied became obese. The researchers predict that a world without bullying would see 12 per cent fewer cases of mid-life obesity.
20 per cent of people who were bullied frequently as children had higher levels of a blood inflammation marker known as C-reactive protein (CRP), which increases the risk of heart disease. Inflammation is also a primary cause of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Heart disease is one of the most common diabetic complications, and the leading cause of death among people with diabetes.
The data for the study was gathered from than 7,000 men and women. All were born within the same week, then their development was tracked. Parents were regularly questioned about their child’s experiences of bullying at certain ages. 28 per cent of parents reported that their children were “bullied occasionally”; 15 per cent were “bullied frequently.”
The study was concluded when the subjects were 45, at which point the researchers conducted health screenings to check for markers of inflammation.
“Taking steps to tackle obesity and high blood inflammation is important because both can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Andrea Danese, one of the authors.
“The effects of being bullied in childhood on the risk of developing poor health later in life are relatively small compared to other factors. However, because obesity and bullying are quite common these days, tackling this effects may have real impact.
Dr. Danese also highlighted the importance of treating psychological problems when it comes to preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Currently, prevention methods focus almost exclusively on lifestyle interventions, such as dietary improvements, greater amounts of exercise, and cessation of smoking.
A spokesman for the Department for Education defended current anti-bullying policies, pointing out that all schools are legally required to create anti-bullying programmes. In addition, the government is “providing just under £4m to a range of anti-bullying organisations to help schools develop strategies to tackle any problems.”
The study was published in Psychological Medicine.

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