New study shows how bullying and sexual abuse are linked to addiction, eating disorders, and depression
While we have come to recognize that bullying and sexual abuse can have lasting effects on people’s minds and mental health, the details of these effects are still relatively unclear. For example, while it is widely known that abuse and bullying can increase the risk of depression later in life, a new study suggests these types of early traumatic events can raise a person’s risk of other mental health issues like eating disorders and addiction.
The study published in BMC Public Health was a collaboration between four universities and health centers in America and Australia, which surveyed more than 2,800 people.
The participants participated in approximately 30-minute long face-to-face interviews with researchers in South Australia, who asked about their history of abuse and being bullied, as well as gauging their recent mental well-being.
Approximately 45% of the participants reported bullying at either school or work, while a little more than 10% said they had been sexually abused. Nearly 7% had experienced both during their lives.
According to the findings, those who were bullied for more than two years were twice as likely to be smokers. Similar results were found among those who were sexually abused under the age of 10, over the age of 20, or for longer than a month.
Similar patterns were found when comparing alcohol use and binge eating behaviors. Additionally, antidepressant use was four times higher among those who were abused or bullied.
Alone, these findings may look alarming, but the researchers believe they will allow for better intervention strategies in the future.
“Strategies that aim to prevent these forms of abuse are important,” the study authors concluded. What’s more, they wrote, “identifying survivors of both forms of abuse is important to provide support and reduce more severe mental and physical consequences in the future.”