Bullied Children May Have Increased Heart, Metabolism Risks

Dr. William Copeland, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist, at Duke University, says that the results of a study he engineered shows that bullying affects children of every income level and racial/ethnic group.

“Here, we show that victims suffer from greater increases in low-grade systemic inflammation from childhood to young adulthood than are seen in others. In contrast, bullies showed lower increases in inflammation into adulthood compared with those uninvolved in bullying.

“Elevated systemic low-grade inflammation is a mechanism by which this common childhood social adversity may get under the skin to affect adult health functioning, even many years later.”

Research has already shown that psychological and social development are affected by bullying.  Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph, reports that scientists have  found a biomarker in the blood of children who have been bullied which raises the probability of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Those doing the bullying, however, see rapid increases in the C-Reactive Protein (CRP).  Bullies, it was discovered have less CRP than those who have never been bullied.

Children who are bullied, says Elizabeth Norton, a reporter for The Washington Post, are prone to physical ailments when older, like depression, headaches, suicidal tendencies, and stomach troubles, even as adults.  She cites Dr. Copeland’s study as the possible answer to why these health issues arise.   She also shares that Dr. Copeland explained that coronary artery disease, diabetes, chronic pain, and depression can be explained by a raised level of CRP.

She adds that Dr. Copeland observed that levels of CRP continued to increase even 10 years later in those who had experienced bullying.  The bullies’ CRP levels were less than half of the levels of the victims. Copeland adds that children who have been abused also show elevated levels of inflammation, measured by CRP level.

Dr. Copeland is quick to add that he is not a fan of bullying other people to improve long-term health.  The health advantage may be linked to the heightened level of status, control, and power that bullies experience.

The benefits of bullying are dispiriting but not surprising, says biological anthropologist Thomas McDade of Northwestern University. The slower-than-normal increase of CRP in bullies supports a growing mound of research showing that those at the top have it better, he says.

This study was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Stephen Propatier writing for Skeptoid, a non-profit podcast which debunks what it sees as pseudoscience and supports public funding for scientific advancement, is skeptical about this study.

Although a poorly structured correlational study can lead to new discoveries, this research fails to be up-to-snuff enough to provide even a starting point. There are several mutually detrimental layers to this onion. CRP says nothing about general health or longevity. CRP is not helpful by itself for stratifying cardiovascular risk factor. The author is drawing implausible and unsupported conclusions about human biology. The study has several inherent structural flaws. The researcher is publicly drawing prospective conclusions about the significance of the data.

05 27, 2014
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