Adults who were bullied at school are more likely to suffer "devastating and damaging" repercussions such as have health, money and relationship problems than their peers who weren't.
The research investigating the socioeconomic impact of bullying is the first of its kind and reveals serious illness, struggling to hold down a job and poor social relationships are just some of the effects on victims. The founder of the BeatBullying charity called the consequences "devastating, damaging and far-reaching," and urged the government to take action.
One bullying victim who spoke to the Huffington Post UK said he is unable to hold down a job and has no social life due to bouts of depression and psychosis, which he believes is the result of being targeted by bullies when he was at school.
The study, led by Professor Dieter Wolke at University of Warwick and Dr William E. Copeland of Duke University Medical Center in the US and published in Psychological Science, looked at the impact on both the victims and the bullies themselves.
The experts, who assessed 1,420 participants between nine and 16 and 24 and 26 years of age, also looked at the effects of those who fall into both categories: "bully-victims". This group were at the highest risk of suffering health problems, being over six times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness, smoke regularly or develop a psychiatric disorder.
All of the groups were more than twice as likely to have difficulty in keeping a job, or commit to saving, and displayed a higher tendency for being impoverished as young adults.
Frank*, a 48-year-old living in Bradford, West Yorkshire, is currently on sick leave due to "yet another" bout of depression. "I was bullied by almost the whole primary school at playtime in even dinner time when eating lunch," he told HuffPost UK. "I was also bullied when playing out at home by some of the same people. I was advised to stick up for myself and go for the ring leaders. Which was difficult since the whole school were involved at one time or other."
Frank says the advice he was given by teachers was not helpful and, "if anything, made it worse". "Despite me trying to fight against my illness caused by bullying I would say it’s pretty much wasted my life. I have been in trouble with the police all my life through violent encounters with other men.
"I self medicate with alcohol and drugs and have become diabetic as a result. I am constantly battling thoughts of suicide and self destruct at the slightest flashback."
Frank adds he believes bullying needs to be "stamped out immediately", through dealing directly with the culprits' parents.
Commenting on his research, Dr Wolke said: "We cannot continue to dismiss bullying as a harmless, almost inevitable, part of growing up. We need to change this mindset and acknowledge this as a serious problem for both the individual and the country as a whole; the effects are long-lasting and significant.”
Hinna Farooq, a 21-year-old student said she believes there will always be insecurity and self-doubt among those who have been bullied.
"Some people will feel like there’s a fault in them and everything they do. They may find it difficult to trust anyone."
Hinna was singled out in school because of a rare skin disorder, saying the constant taunts "took a toll on me". She was bullied from primary school through to university - and eventually dropped out.
"The following six months [after I left university] or so was the most difficult time of my life. I fell into deep depression. I wouldn’t get out of my room. I would hardly eat anything and I felt like I was wasting away. I was given anti-depressants (which I didn’t take). I refused to talk to anyone or do anything.
"I was a total mess. I gave up on life."
Hinna says she was not offered any advice or support on how to deal with bullying, and as a result felt "completely alone" and afraid to talk to anyone.
"I would absolutely have benefitted from support," she adds. "When you're bullied you feel like the whole world is against you and you’ve done something wrong. But if you have just one person to tell you that they’re there for you, it would make all the difference."
"More needs to be done to help bullying victims. So many, more than ever are resorting to suicide, and it’s scary. It needs to stop. The victims need to know there are people out there that care. They need to be reminded to never bottle up what they’re going through, because it’ll only harm them more."
Hinna eventually sought solace online - blogging about her experiences, which you can read here, and is back at university. She adds: "If you’re reading this, I want you to know that, yes it does get better."
Emma-Jane Cross, CEO and founder of BeatBullying told HuffPost UK: "This groundbreaking study shines a light on what has been an overlooked subject for society and the economy. The findings demonstrate for the first time just how far-reaching and damaging the consequences of bullying can be.
“BeatBullying has been raising awareness of the devastating impact of bullying on young people’s lives for over ten years. But as this research reveals, bullying not only robs young people of their childhood, but can also severely damage a person’s future potential leaving them at greater risk of becoming impoverished.
“This research should be a wakeup call for us all. We need action now from Government, schools, families and communities. Solutions will only be found through a united movement against bullying.”
Useful websites and helplines:
Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
Students Against Depression, a website by students, for students.
HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41
Mental Wealth UK To join the community or launch a student group contact the charity on firstname.lastname@example.org
*Frank's name has been altered at his request in order to protect his identity.