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Childhood bullying victimisation is associated with use of mental health services over 5 decades: A Longitudinal nationally-representative cohort study

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Sara Evans-Lacko, Ryu Takizawa, Nicola Brimblecombe, Derek King, Martin Knapp, Barbara Maughan, Louise Arseneault

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 30 May 2016


King's Authors


Background: Research supports robust associations between childhood bullying victimisation and mental health problems in childhood/adolescence and emerging evidence shows the impact can persist into adulthood. We examined the impact of bullying victimisation on mental health service use from childhood to midlife.
Methods: We performed secondary analysis using the National Child Development Study, the 1958 British Birth Cohort study. We conducted analyses on 9,242 participants with complete data on childhood bullying victimisation and service use at midlife. We used multivariable logistic regression models to examine associations between childhood bullying victimisation and mental health service use ages 16, 23, 33, 42 and 50. We estimated incidence and persistence of mental health service use over time to age 50.
Results: Compared to participants who were not bullied in childhood, those who were frequently bullied were more likely to use mental health services in childhood and adolescence (OR: 2.53, 95% CI: 1.88, 3.40), and also in midlife (OR: 1.30, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.55). Disparity in service use associated with childhood bullying victimisation was accounted for by both incident service use through to age 33 by a sub-group of participants, and by persistent use up to midlife.
Conclusions: Childhood bullying victimisation adds to the pressure on an already stretched health care system. Policy and practice efforts providing support for victims of bullying could help contain public sector costs. Given constrained budgets and the long-term mental health impact on victims of bullying, early prevention strategies could be effective at limiting both individual distress and later costs.

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