Bullying linked to long-term poor health
Sarah Wiedersehn | AAP | June 15 2017
Healthcare professionals are being urged to recognise the long term impact that bullying has on a woman's health.
An Australian-first study examining impact of bullying in adult women at a national level found women who were bullied at school are more likely to have alcohol or drug habits and be overweight or obese.
Of the 16,000 women studied, more than half of the women who were bullied recently had suicidal thoughts, and a third had self-harmed.
Lead author of the study, Natalie Townsend from the Research Centre for Generational Health and Ageing and Hunter Medical Research Institute Public Health Program says bullying may not be physical but it still has long lasting effects on physical health.
"Our bodies' physical and hormonal response to stress can increase the risk of chronic disease and trigger the onset of predisposed conditions," said Ms Townsend.
Data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health showed that in 2013, 53 per cent of women aged 18 - 23 reported having been bullied in the past, and 18 per cent said they had been bullied recently.
Compared with women who hadn't been bullied, those who were victims had lower levels of education and were less likely to be studying or employed.
In terms of health outcomes, a third of women bullied at school were either overweight or obese, compared to 25 per cent of women never bullied.
The physical impact was long lasting, with 17 per cent of women bullied in the past reporting their health as 'fair' or 'poor'.
Bullied women were also more likely to report very high levels of psychological distress - 42 per cent versus 21 per cent.
Compared to women who had never experienced bullying, those recently bullied were: 2.9 times more likely to have high psychological distress; 2.7 times more likely to have felt that life was not worth living; and four times more likely to have self-harmed.
"With more than one-third of young women indicating they have experienced bullying, the importance of bullying prevention cannot be overstressed," the authors wrote.
The research is published in the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
Co-author Professor Deborah Loxton says policymakers and healthcare professionals urgently needed to recognise the scale of the problem and take action.
"We need to provide interventions and ongoing support and treatment for adults," Prof Loxton said.