Childhood bullying victimization is associated with use of mental health services over five decades: a longitudinal nationally representative cohort study

Sara Evans-Lacko, Ryu Takizawa, Nicola Brimblecombe, Derek King, Martin Knapp, Barbara Maughan, Ryu Takizawa (2017)

Please note: this is a legacy publication from CPEC (formely PSSRU at LSE).

Psychological Medicine 47 1 127-135

Available online: 28 September 2016

Background. Research supports robust associations between childhood bullying victimization and mental health problems in childhood/adolescence and emerging evidence shows that the impact can persist into adulthood. We examined the impact of bullying victimization on mental health service use from childhood to midlife. Method. We performed secondary analysis using the National Child Development Study, the 1958 British Birth Cohort Study. We conducted analyses on 9242 participants with complete data on childhood bullying victimization and service use at midlife.We used multivariable logistic regression models to examine associations between childhood bullying victimization and mental health service use at the ages of 16, 23, 33, 42 and 50 years.We estimated incidence and persistence of mental health service use over time to the age of 50 years. Results. Compared with participants who were not bullied in childhood, those who were frequently bullied were more likely to use mental health services in childhood and adolescence [odds ratio (OR) 2.53, 95% confidence interval (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 victimization was accounted for by both incident service use through to age 33 years by a subgroup of participants, and by persistent use up to midlife. Conclusions. Childhood bullying victimization 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.