Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 17th 2014 Contents A36
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, May 17, 2014
Researchers already know that many kids who
are bullied appear to suffer socially, psychologically
and even physically years later. According to a new
study, the physical consequences might be explained
by an increase in low-grade inflammation through-
out the body.
Kids who are bullied tend to be sick more often
than their peers and may have stomach aches, sleep
problems and headaches and lose their appetites,
researchers write in the journal PNAS. In the new
study, bullied kids had higher inflammation levels
as young adults than their uninvolved classmates.
"We re pretty confident that this is a bullying
effect," said William Copeland, who led the study at
Duke University School of Medicine in Durham,
Inflammation might explain the connection between
bullying and physical health, Copeland told Reuters
An increase in inflammation could lead to health
problems like heart disease down the line, he said.
The authors followed 1,420 kids from age nine to
21, interviewing the kids and their mothers along the
way about bullying involvement and taking blood
samples from the kids every year or two.
They measured the level of C-reactive protein, a
marker often used to gauge body-wide inflammation
levels, in the blood samples.
The marker can be affected by any number of
stressors or changes in the environment, like lack of
sleep or psychological problems, Copeland said.
C-reactive protein levels went up for all kids as
they got older, but kids who had been repeatedly
bullied saw more of an increase in inflammation than
a group that was not involved at all in bullying.
The more often kids reported being bullied, the
more the inflammation marker increased over time.
"We ve known for a number of years that a variety
of early life traumas ranging from sexual and physical
abuse to mental abuse and neglect lead to a variety
of bad health outcomes in just about every area of
health that you want to measure," said Dr Andrew
H. Miller, a psychiatrist at Emory University School
of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.
One of the "common denominators" in many ills
like cancer and heart disease is inflammation, he told
"The idea that bad things happening to you leads
to inflammation has been what we are beginning to
think may be the link between bad events early in
life and bad health outcomes later," said Miller, who
wasn t involved in the new study.
The elevated levels of C-reactive protein in victims
of bullying indicate they might have a three- to four-
fold increased risk of developing heart disease or dia-
betes, Miller said. But to know if that connection is
going to pan out, researchers would have to wait
until the participants entered their 40s or 50s.
"The kids that we re looking at, none of them yet
have cardiovascular disease," Copeland said. "Whether
the levels they re displaying suggest that they re going
to get heart disease, we have to follow them later to
The study also found that kids who were bullies
but were never bullied themselves had less of an
increase in inflammation over time than the group
of kids not involved in bullying in any way.
"That s a difficult finding to work with," Copeland
said. "You don t want to encourage folks to bully."
"Bullying is a way of enhancing social status and
achieving success," he said. "There are other ways
people can enhance social status or success without
wreaking havoc on others."
Miller cautioned against deciding bullies come out
Study: Bullying linked to
The more often children reported being bullied, the more the inflammation
marker increased over time, according to researchers.
ahead in the long run when the inflammation measure
only ran to young adulthood.
"I wouldn t put a lot of stock in that one," he said.
"Life teaches many lessons that occur after 21."
Kids with the highest levels of inflammation were
the ones who had experienced bullying repeatedly
over a long period of time, or in multiple settings,
Parents and caretakers should deal with the poten-
tial long-term effects of bullying only after stopping
the bullying from taking place, he said.
"The obvious answer for all of this is to prevent
it from happening," Copeland said, and that s a dif-
ficult goal even with the many comprehensive anti-
bullying campaigns in effect in schools.
"You don t treat the child without getting them
out of the traumatic experience first," he said.
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