Nearly one-third of early adulthood depression could be linked to bullying in teenage years, suggests a new study.
A team of scientists, led by Lucy Bowes at the University of Oxford, carried out one of the largest studies on the association between bullying by peers in teenage years and depression in early adulthood. They undertook a longitudinal observational study that examined the relationship between bullying at 13 years and depression at 18 years.
Of the 683 teenagers who reported frequent bullying at more than once a week at 13 years, 14.8% were depressed at 18 years and of the 1446 teenagers who had some bullying of 1-3 times over six months at 13 years, 7.1% were depressed at 18 years. Only 5.5% of teenagers who did not experience bullying were depressed at 18 years.
Around 10.1% of frequently bullied teenagers experienced depression for more than two years, compared with 4.1% from the non-bullied group.
If this were a causal relationship up to 30% of depression in early adulthood could be attributable to bullying in teenage years, explain the authors, adding that bullying could make a substantial contribution to the overall burden of depression.
While this is an observational study and no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, they say that interventions to reduce bullying in schools could reduce depression in later life. The study is published in The BMJ