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Depression symptoms can linger long after children are bullied

There are several factors that could influence young adults’ depression symptoms

Photo (c) Ridofranz - Getty Images
A recent study suggests that children and young adults who are bullied can be affected for years afterwards. And unfortunately, the effects could be even worse for those who experience symptoms of depression.

“Although we know that depression can strike first during the teenage years, we didn’t know how risk factors influenced change over time,” explained researcher Alex Kwong. 

Tracking the symptoms

The researchers analyzed data from the Bristol’s Children of the 90s study, which included responses from over 3,300 teenagers on their overall mood and feelings, as well as potential risks for depression that could be genetic. The researchers checked back in with the participants nine different times between the ages of 10 and 24 to determine any differences in mood or behavior. 

By the study’s end, the researchers determined that both genetic and environmental risk factors played a role in the participants’ likelihood of developing depressive symptoms, which the researchers emphasized was an important finding for mental health professionals to consider. 

According to Kwong, the study revealed that young adults who were bullied as children were “eight times more likely to experience depression that was limited to childhood.” 

“However, some children who were bullied showed greater patterns of depression that continued into adulthood and this group of children also showed genetic liability and family risk,” Kwong noted. 

The researchers explained that genetic risk weren’t a guarantee that children would develop depressive symptoms into young adulthood, but it is something to keep note of to ensure that all children receive the proper mental health services as they grow into adulthood. 

“The next steps should continue to look at both genetic and environmental risk factors to help untangle this complex relationship that would eventually help influence prevention and coping strategies for our health and education services,” Kwong said. 

Bristol mental health experts were also pleased with these findings, as they hope they’ll allow for the proper funding for more young people to get the mental health support they need. 

“I would also hope that studies such as these will help change policy direction and spending so that we start to get upstream of the issues that we know affect mental health, including education and family, prevention rather than cure ideally,” said Karen Black, CEO of Bristol’s Off the Record, a mental health organization created by and for young people. 

Monitoring mental health

As more and more children and millennials are struggling with anxiety and depression, it’s become more important than ever for consumers to prioritize their mental health. 

Researchers recently found that a healthy diet can be beneficial in fighting off depression symptoms -- even for those without a formal depression diagnosis. 

“Our data add to the growing evidence to support lifestyle intervention as an important approach to tackle low mood and depression,” said Dr. Brendon Stubbs. “Specifically, our results within this study found that when dietary interventions were combined with exercise, a greater improvement in depressive symptoms was experienced by people. Taken together, our data really highlight the central role of eating a healthier diet and taking regular exercise to act as a viable treatment to help people with low mood.”

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