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According to a new study, how childhood bullying is linked to mental health problems later

A recent study published in the journal Nature Mental Health has uncovered a troubling connection between childhood bullying and mental health challenges later in life, particularly during adolescence.

Researchers from UCLA Health and the University of Glasgow conducted the study, which involved examining the experiences of over 10,000 children in the U.K. over nearly two decades. They found that children who were bullied at age 11 and developed significant distrust of others by age 14 were much more likely to experience mental health issues by age 17, including anxiety, depression, anger, and hyperactivity.

While previous research has shown that bullying can contribute to mental health struggles among young people, this study is the first to specifically explore how developing distrust after being bullied can lead to later mental health problems.

Interestingly, the study found that factors like diet, sleep, and physical activity didn’t have as much of an impact as interpersonal distrust in linking bullying to mental health issues.

These findings support the Social Safety Theory, which suggests that experiences like bullying can erode trust in others and create a sense of danger or unpredictability in the world, affecting mental well-being.

Dr. George Slavich, a senior author of the study from UCLA Health, highlights the importance of addressing interpersonal trust in schools to mitigate the negative effects of bullying. He suggests implementing evidence-based programs focused on fostering trusting relationships, especially during key transitions like entering high school or college.

Recognizing distrust as a risk factor for mental health issues, schools and institutions can work toward creating environments that promote positive social connections and support for vulnerable individuals.

The study, co-authored by Dr. Slavich and Dr. Dimitris Tsomokos from the University of Glasgow, sheds light on the lasting impact of childhood bullying on mental health and underscores the need for proactive interventions to support affected individuals during their formative years.

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