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How does bullying affect health & well-being?

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Bullying can lead to physical injury, social problems, emotional problems, and even death.1 Children and adolescents who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, headaches, and problems adjusting to school.2 Bullying also can cause long-term damage to self-esteem.3

Children and adolescents who are bullies are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence to others later in life.2

Children or adolescents who are both bullies and victims suffer the most serious effects of bullying and are at greater risk for mental and behavioral problems than those who are only bullied or who are only bullies.2

NICHD research studies show that anyone involved with bullying—those who bully others, those who are bullied, and those who bully and are bullied—are at increased risk for depression.4

NICHD-funded research studies also found that unlike traditional forms of bullying, youth who are bullied electronically—such as by computer or cell phone—are at higher risk for depression than the youth who bully them.5 Even more surprising, the same studies found that cyber victims were at higher risk for depression than were cyberbullies or bully-victims (i.e., those who both bully others and are bullied themselves), which was not found in any other form of bullying. Read more about these findings in the NICHD news release: Depression High Among Youth Victims of School Cyberbullying, NIH Researchers Report.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Fact sheet: Understanding bullying. Retrieved August 7, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying_factsheet.pdf (PDF - 356 KB). [top]
  2. Smokowski P. R., & Kopasz K. H. (2005). Bullying in school: An overview of types, effects, family characteristics, and intervention strategies. Children and Schools, 27, 101–109. [top]
  3. Reece, T. (2008). Bullies beat down self esteem. Retrieved August 7, 2012, from http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Bullies-Beat-Down-Self-Esteem.asp External Web Site Policy [top]
  4. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2010). Taking a stand against bullying. Retrieved August 7, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/spotlight/pages/092110-taking-stand-against-bullying.aspx. [top]
  5. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2012). Focus on children's mental health research at the NICHD. Retrieved August 7, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/spotlight/pages/060112-childrens-mental-health.aspx. [top]

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Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 01/28/2014
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology