Gossiping or spreading rumours about someone may not leave your victims with a black eye or bruises, but it will leave a mark on their psyche, say researchers, who state that social bullying can lead to depression and anxiety in adults.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, and involved 210 college students between the ages of 18 and 25.
Their findings showed that there is a link between relational victimization in adolescence and depression and anxiety in early adulthood.
"Even though people are outside of high school, the memories of these experiences continue to be associated with depression and social anxiety," said Allison Dempsey, a doctoral student in the UF College of Education and the study's lead author.
"When it comes to spreading rumors and gossiping, that's a lot more difficult to prove who's doing it. And it's harder to provide consequences," she added.
As a part of their study, the researchers asked college graduates to recall their experiences from high school. They noted that even though the participants had not been physically bullied, they were still scarred emotionally.
They also noted that gender did not make a difference to severity of psychological symptoms, and that having friends or other positive social relationships didn't lessen rates of depression and anxiety in adulthood.
The findings are published online this month in the journal Psychology in the Schools.