A recent study by the London School of Economics and King’s College London has shown strong links between childhood bullying and use of mental health services.
Using information from the the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study, the researchers analysed over nine thousand subjects with detailed data on childhood bullying experience and subsequent use of mental health services.
The lead researcher, Dr. Sara Evans-Lacko said:
The impact of childhood bullying on mental health services is most notable at an early age, but the association remains significant at 50.
The research showed that those who were bullied often were over twice as likely to use mental health services. Even at the age of 50 they are still 30 per cent more likely to use such services. This shows that the persistence of mental health issues throughout life, as a result of childhood bullying, is very strong.
Mental Health and Victimhood
Dr. Evens-Lacko also identified that those with mental health problems may be at higher risk of further bullying in the future:
Bullying may also set the conditions for a cycle in which people are at risk of exposure to further victimisation in later life. Other outcomes associated with childhood bullying include relationship breakdowns and low employment.
The Cost of Mental Health Services
Mental health services in the UK come under the remit of the National Health Service. The current government has pledged a “parity of esteem” for mental health in comparison to physical health, but many believe this has not been achieved. At present mental health issues account for 28 per cent of the total burden, however it only receives 13 per cent of the total budget.
The research into the links between bullying and mental health services suggests that combatting bullying at the source is a good way to relieve the strain on underfunded mental health services. Dr. Evans-Lacko commented on this:
Anti-bullying initiatives are relatively inexpensive, estimated at £15.50 per pupil per year, and offer good value for money. Given the current tremendous strain on the health system, policies and practices to prevent bullying should be a high priority.
Mental Health Service Usage
The research also showed that more boys than girls use mental health services at a young age, however this switches in adulthood with more women using mental health services than men. The researchers speculated that this might be down to more effective detection of mental health issues in boys than girls, whereas grown men are subject to greater stigma and are less likely to accept mental health help.
The findings of the research have been published in detail in Psychological Medicine.