Published: May 13, 2019

Being bullied at school has long-lasting negative impacts on academic performance, employment, income and mental health, according to new evidence produced by a Life Course Centre Working Paper.

School bullying is a widespread problem and policy issue, but there is little evidence on whether being bullied causes poorer outcomes in later life and, if so, how bad the impacts are. A new Life Course Centre Working Paper fills this gap by providing evidence on the consequences of being bullied in high schools in England. The study uses confidential data on over 7,000 school children from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, aged between 14 and 16 years.

This collaborative Working Paper was authored by Life Course Centre researchers Professor Colm Harmon and Dr Anita Staneva of the University of Sydney and Dr Silvia Mendolia of the University of Wollongong in conjunction with Ms Emma Gorman and Professor Ian Walker of Lancaster University (a recent visitor to the Life Course Centre at the University of Sydney). The authors found that about 50 per cent of those in the study reported experiencing some form of bullying between ages 14 and 16 years. Reported examples included being called names, excluded from social groups, being threatened with violence, experiencing violence, and having possessions taken.

The key evidence produced by the Working Paper showed that being bullied:

  • Reduced the probability of success in age 16 high stakes exam by 10 per cent
  • Reduced the probability of staying in education past 16 years old by 10 per cent
  • Increased the probability of being unemployed at age 25 years by 30 per cent
  • Reduced income at age 25 by 2 per cent
  • Had a large negative impact on mental health at age 25

These findings suggest that being bullied in school has negative impacts on important academic and long-term outcomes, especially unemployment, income and mental health. The effects are more pronounced for those who experience persistent or violent types of bullying, indicating a targeted approach to reducing more extreme forms of bullying may be warranted.

You can read the full Working Paper, ‘The Causal Effects of Adolescent School Bullying Victimisation on Later Life Outcomes,’ here.