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Bullying in Childhood Linked to Later Psychosis

Bullying during childhood, whether as a victim or a perpetrator, may increase the risk of developing psychotic experiences in early adulthood, new research suggests.

A community-based study of more than 4700 participants from the United Kingdom showed that those who were bullied at the age of 10 years were more than twice as likely to suffer from episodes of psychosis by the age of 18 as those who were never bullied.

Interestingly, children who reported doing the bullying themselves were almost 5 times more likely to have psychotic experiences by the age of 18 years.

"We were not surprised that there was a relationship to psychotic symptoms, particularly if you were chronically victimized," lead author Dieter Wolke, PhD, from the Department of Psychology, Division of Mental Health and Wellbeing, at the University of Warwick in Coventry, United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News.

"But we were surprised that we found an increased risk for the bullies," added Dr. Wolke.

He noted that the results show that bullying can have a significant impact on adult life and that clinicians should routinely ask their child patients about peer bullying experiences.

"It strengthens the evidence base that reducing bullying in childhood could substantially reduce mental health problems. The benefit to society would be huge, but of course the greatest benefit would be to the individual," he said in a release.

The study was published December 17 in Psychological Medicine.

Medscape Medical News Deborah Brauser January 03, 2014