Consequences of bullying

consequences of bullying

The consequences of bullying can be severe. Bullying can affect young people in the following ways:

  • low self-esteem
  • reduced capacity for trust
  • absenteeism from school
  • poor academic attainment
  • relationship difficulties
  • attitudes to schooling
  • mental wellbeing

bullying and mental wellbeing

Hawker and Boulton (2000) conducted a meta-analysis of cross-sectional studies of bullying carried out from 1970s-1990s, and found that victims of bullying was positively associated with depression, loneliness, social and generalised anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Researchers from California surveyed 14,000 secondary school students and found that even for those who were being bullied infrequently, this was associated with detrimental effects on their subjective wellbeing including 'diminishments in zest, optimism, and gratitude' (Fullchange & Furlong, 2016).

Bullying and school absence

NatCen (2011) used samples from the National Pupil Database and local authority data to examine reasons for school absence. They estimated:

  • 16,493 young people aged 11-15 are absent from state school, where bullying is the main reason for absence (NatCen & Red Balloon, 2011)
  • 77,950 young people aged 11-15 are absent from state school, where bullying is a reason given for absence.

long term scarring effects of bullying

The 1958 National Child Development Study analyses information on more than 7700 people born across England, Scotland, and Wales in 1958. Those bullied frequently as children were at an increased risk of depression and anxiety, and more likely to report a lower quality of life at 50.

The authors of the report concluded “Victims of childhood bullying had higher rates of depression and psychological distress at ages 23 and 50 than those who were never bullied. Those who were bullied frequently while they were growing up had higher risks of anxiety and were more likely to have thought about suicide by age 45, compared with those who were never bullied. The effects of childhood bullying on adults’ mental health remained even after taking into consideration related factors such as family social class, parenting and behavioural problems


Takizawa et al., (2014) “Adult health outcomes of childhood bullying victimization: Evidence from a 5-decade longitudinal British birth cohort” American Journal of Psychiatry.

Fullchange and Furlong (2016) An Exploration of Effects of Bullying Victimization From a Complete Mental Health Perspective.

Hawker and Boulton (2000) “Twenty years research on peer victimisation and psycho-social maladjustment: a meta-analytic review of cross-sectional studies” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Brown et al (2011) "Estimating the prevalence of young people absent from school due to bullying". NatCan & Red Balloon