(HealthDay News) – The effects of childhood bullying last into adulthood for both victims and bullies, with the worst effects seen for those who are both victims and bullies, according to research published online Feb. 20 in JAMA Psychiatry.

William E. Copeland, PhD, of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, and colleagues conducted a prospective, population-based cohort study involving 1,420 participants who had been bullied to examine whether bullying and/or being bullied in childhood is predictive of adult psychiatric problems and suicidality.

The researchers found that the rates of young adult psychiatric disorders as well as childhood psychiatric disorders and family hardships were increased for victims and bullies/victims. Victims of childhood bullying had a significantly higher prevalence of agoraphobia (odds ratio [OR], 4.6), generalized anxiety disorder (OR, 2.7), and panic disorder (OR, 3.1), after adjustment for childhood psychiatric problems or family hardships. Participants who were bullies and victims had a significantly increased risk of young adult depression (OR, 4.8), panic disorder (OR, 14.5), agoraphobia (females only; OR, 26.7), and suicidality (males only; OR, 18.5). The only risk for bullies was antisocial personality disorder (OR, 4.1).

“Bullying is not just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. Victims of bullying are at increased risk for emotional disorders in adulthood. Bullies/victims are at highest risk and are most likely to think about or plan suicide,” the authors write. “These problems are associated with great emotional and financial costs to society.”

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