Quality of life for college students is linked with their bullying experiences in primary school and high school, researchers from Taiwan suggest.
Parents should know that being the victim of bullying is not something kids simply grow out of once they get to college, the study’s senior author told Reuters Health in an email.
“Bullying should be dealt with seriously and as early as possible before any further damage is done,” said Jiun-Hau Huang, an associate professor at National Taiwan University in Taipei.
In one international study, 9 to 13 percent of adolescents ages 11 to 15 reported being recently bullied, wrote Huang and his colleague, Yu-Ying Chen, in the journal Pediatrics.
Bullying among children and teens is linked to a number of physical and mental problems, research has shown. And the potential negative effects of bullying may add up over time (see Reuters Health story of February 17, 2014 here: reut.rs/ZeTI3q.)
Using 2013 data from 1,452 Taiwanese college students, Huang and Chen analyzed whether different types of bullying before college might be linked with students' current quality of life.
They note that bullying can take many forms, including physical and verbal abuse. It can also occur socially, such as through excluding someone. Bullying can also be “cyber” and occur over electronic channels.
Using a widely-accepted measure of quality of life that examines physical, psychological, social and environmental health, the researchers found that being victimized by bullies, or actually being the bully, were each linked in complicated ways with quality of life during college.
For example, being the victim of cyber-bullying before college was actually associated with a better score for physical health during college. While they can’t explain that finding, the researchers suggest that the cyber-bullying victims may have ended up not spending as much time online and instead took part in activities that improved their health.
But the victims of verbal and relational bullying before and during college had lower overall quality of life scores than others who didn’t experience bullying.
“In other words, bullying is a serious issue with long-term repercussions and parents should not take it lightly,” said Huang.
Being the bully, however, was tied to increased quality of life scores.
The researchers also found that the worse psychological scores among victims of bullying were often explained by depression. That finding requires more analysis, they write.
Huang said there's also a need for research to see if any interventions can prevent kids from experiencing the long-term effects of bullying, and to confirm that bullying is really the cause of the effects they saw in these students.
When kids are experiencing bullying, Huang said they should report it immediately.
“They should be reminded that it is brave and helpful to report any bullying perpetration or victimization around them, and it is the right thing to do,” he said. “Their reporting behavior should be reinforced, instead of being treated as a sign of weakness. Such openness and transparency may help reduce the secrecy and occurrence of bullying.”