Most people are familiar with the psychological pains bullying can cause, but did you know chronic bullying can also have a serious impact on the life-long health and longevity of the kids who experience it? Research into the impacts of adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) shows adults who experience trauma before age 18 have greater risks of several chronic conditions and even premature death. If a child has four or more ACE’s — such as chronic bullying and/or neglect from a parent — their expected lifespan can be shortened by as much as 20 years. These findings show that reducing/stopping bullying today will not only help kids now, but also has the potential to improve their health and wellbeing for their entire lives.

In the short term children who are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, health and academic problems. They also have lower self-esteem and a higher risk of having negative body image. Kids who do the bullyingexperience negative consequences as well, such as increased risk of substance abuse, criminal behavior and abusive relationships as adults. Even kids who witness, but are not directly involved in bullying, can experience negative consequences such as increased risk of substance abuse, mental health issues and missing school.

Over the long term, adverse childhood experiences can greatly impact life long hormonal regulation and overall health.  Traumatized kids often grow into adults with nervous systems that are permanently on high alert, always scanning for danger and never able to relax. This chronic stress — and ongoing activation of the fight or flight response — can harm the body in multiple ways, leading to increased risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and COPD in adulthood,  as well as depression and mental health issues. Without intervention and treatment these children may grow into adults with lifelong mental and physical health problems.

The Bullying Problem

Real world bullying is a serious problem that 20% of students report experiencing. It can be verbal, relational, cyber/electronic or physical. Cyberbullying is even more common and 43% of students report being electronically bullied and most students (70%) report witnessing cyberbullying on a regular basis. Smartphones are the most common means for cyberbullying. Most students (80%) think that cyberbullying is easier to get away with than in school/person bullying.  Female students are twice as likely (19.7%) to engage in cyberbullying compared to their male counterparts (9.9%). Girls were also more likely to be bullied at school (22.3%) than boys (15.6%). While rates of bullying have not dramatically increased in recent years, the internet has allowed for cyber/electronic bullying to develop. Cyber bullies use social media, texting and other forms of technology to harass their victims.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) youth and those perceived as LGBTQ are at an increased risk of being bullied. Results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that, nationwide, more U.S. high school students who self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) report having been bullied on school property (33%) and cyber-bullied (27.1%) in the past year, than their heterosexual peers (17.1% and 13.3%, respectively). Kids with special needs and disabilities are also more likely to be be bullied.

Wear Pink to Help Kids Grow Into Healthy Adults

The International Day of Pink was inspired when two Canadian high school students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, noticed another student being bullied for wearing a pink polo shirt on the first day of school. The two seniors intervened to stop the freshman from being harassed, but wanted to do more to stop homophobic bullying in their school. To that end they bought 50 pink shirts at a local discount store and spread the word to other students to wear pink the next day to help stand up against the bullies. Many students showed up in head to toe pink creating a “sea of pink” to help the bullied student feel supported. Word of the student led anti-bullying pink campaign quickly spread and the International Day of Pink movement was born. This proactive and lighthearted approach to reducing a serious problem has become a important day for celebrating diversity and standing up against bullies, especially homophobia and transphobia. It also demonstrates simple yet brave actions from individuals can make a big difference in helping protect vulnerable individuals from damaging abuse.

The Health IQ Team is proud to wear pink on the International Day of Pink to raise awareness amongst our team about the negative long term health effects of childhood trauma and bullying.

What You Can Do To Help End Bullying

  • If you see anyone being harassed or bullied and feel safe, respectfully intervene. You never know how a small act can help someone to not feel alone. #BeSomeonesHero
  • Model respectful and inclusive behavior by treating all people with respect and kindness. You never know the full battle someone else is fighting.
  • Keep communication lines open. Talk regularly with the younger people in your life about mutual respect to build trust and encourage them to share their experiences. Be aware of the dynamics of their social groups and school issues.
  • Help kids understand bullying and the power dynamics around it. Without judgement talk about why some kids are more likely to bully and be bullied.
  • Encourage kids to get involved. Doing activities they enjoy such as sports, arts, hobbies and other social activities build self-esteem, encourages healthy social connections and protects from bullying behaviors.