The Effects of Bullying on Your Child  s Health

For years parents have told kids who were bullied to stand up for themselves and fight back. But now the experts recognize that this advice may not be enough to help children at the mercy of their peers. As a result, the victims of bullying may end up suffering a variety of ill effects later in life.

The Health Effects of Bullying

A study conducted in Australia that was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry looked at close to 3,000 adults and discovered that almost 20 percent of them were bullied as children and many of them seem to be suffering now as a result. In fact, those respondents who fall into the victim group report a number of physical and emotional symptoms, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, pain and frequent colds.

Exploring the Effects of Bullying

But while the link between the bullying and the mental and physical ailments experienced in adulthood seems clear, the scientist admit that exactly why the two go hand in hand is not completely clear. One theory is that the connection could stem from the stress that children feel when they're being bullied by their peers.

Stress Could Cause the Later Effects of Bullying

Consider this. When the body feels stressed, it perceives a threat and goes into a "fight or flight" mode, which triggers it to create more cortisol and adrenaline.

In the short term, this can cause an increased heart rate, digestive problems and tight muscles. For many children, this can mean constant headaches, stomachaches, sore throats and respiratory infections.  Children who're bullied are also prone to low self-esteem and depression.

These effects of bullying can worsen over time, too, even after the threat is gone. This is because the constant stress experienced in childhood can eventually weaken the immune system and create increased inflammation that remains in adulthood and continues to impact the person's health and quality of life overall. Researchers believe that this can be why adults have such health ills.

What it Means

These findings call serious attention to the effects of bullying and can serve as an important reminder to parents, and schools, to take the situation seriously. Therefore, if your child is being bullied, your support and encouragement can go a long way in helping him deal with a bad situation. Please review the following suggestion of things you can do that can make a difference.

  • Provide a safe environment for your child to talk about him concerns.
  • Rather than telling him to fight back against bullying, which can make him feel worse, make an effort to build his confidence.
  • Encourage your child to become involved in a sport or other activity at which he excels, which can also build self-esteem.
  • Reach out to administrators at your child's school to be sure they're taking the situation seriously. Partner with them to help find some solutions to support your child in any way he needs.
  • Make sure he understands that it's not his fault he is being victimized and that he hasn't done anything wrong.

A Final Note

While you may not be able to make a bully leave your child alone, you can at least give your child the support he needs and help him to handle the situation from a position of strength so he can avoid letting the situation make him sick, both now and also later in life.


American Psychological Association