Children who are regularly harassed by bullies may experience depression, anxiety, loss of interest in activities they enjoy and decreased academic achievement. However, new research suggests that children who have been bullied are also at a higher risk for inflammatory diseases.

Information on inflammation

Inflammation is a natural method the body uses to remove harmful substances like damaged cells, pathogens and other irritants, and is part of the healing process. Typically, inflammation starts with irritation, is followed by suppuration, or the discharge of pus and ends with a granulation phase where tiny wounds form on damaged tissue. Without inflammation, the human body would never be able to completely heal damaged tissues. However, chronic inflammation can eventually lead to ailments like periodontal disease, hay fever, cancer and other conditions.

The link between bullying and inflammatory diseases

According to a study conducted by Duke University, those who were bullying victims during their childhood are more likely to suffer from physical problems, like heart disease and cancer, due to inflammation. To come to this conclusion, researchers studied children from the time they were 9-years-old to when they were 21 years of age. During this time period, researchers interviewed both the children and their mothers about how they were involved with or impacted by bullying. Additionally, the researchers took blood samples from the children every year or every other year.

After taking these blood samples, the researchers would measure the level of C-reactive protein to determine the inflammation level in the participant’s bodies. Typically, levels of this protein in the blood increase as people age and as they are exposed to more physical and psychological stress factors. In this study, the children who were not victims of regular bullying had lower inflammation levels than the children who reported that they were bullied on a regular basis. Consequently, the children who reported that they were bullied the most during the duration of the study also had the highest levels of inflammation.

Right now, a few decades need to pass for researchers to determine the presence of inflammatory diseases amongst the children who participated in the study as they progress further into adulthood. However, at the time of the study, many of the children were already suffering from certain health problems like headaches, loss of appetite and sleep problems. Parents should watch out for these warning signs if they suspect their child is victimized by a bully. Additionally, parents may also benefit from consulting with an attorney who can provide more information about what can be done to stop the bullying from continuing.