The American Journal of Psychiatry has published a new study examining the long-term effects of childhood bullying. This study supported the idea that bullying occurrences in one’s childhood may impact the social, health, and economic outcomes of the child in the future. Earlier investigations have shown these psychological effects to exist into a person’s 20s, but this study led by Ryu Takizawa of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London has tracked these effects into a person’s 50s.

“Our study shows that the effects of bullying are still visible nearly four decades later,” said study author Takizawa. “The impact of bullying is persistent and pervasive, with health, social, and economic consequences lasting well into adulthood.”

The data were from the British National Child Development Study, a 50-year prospective cohort of births in 1 week in 1958. The authors analyzed 7,771 participants to conduct a follow-up assessment between ages of 23 and 50 years. Outcomes included suicidality, depression diagnostic, anxiety disorders, alcohol dependence, psychological distress, and social relationships.

According to the study, participants bullied in childhood had increased levels of psychological distress, rates of depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidality than nonvictimized peers. Frequent bullying was also linked to poorer cognitive function at age 50.

Further, childhood bullying was also correlated to lack of social relationships and poor perceived quality of life at age 50. Victims of bullying were less likely to live with a partner or spouse and less able to call on friends in case of illness.

The findings of this study stress the need for early intervention. The long-term effects of bullying are strong evidence that we need to take bullying and cyberbullying even more seriously. Measures must be taken to reduce cyberbullying exposure that may plague the life of an ordinary child.