Bullies and their victims pay a price in poor health as adults, suffering from stress and at high risk for heart trouble

Childhood bullies more likely to grow up hostile, to smoke and use marijuana, while the bullied are more likely to have low pay and money troubles, feel hard done by and be pessimistic, while both face stress, study shows

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 5:17pm

Children involved in bullying may be at a higher risk of certain health conditions later in life, according to new research. Led by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in the United States, the study looked at a diverse sample of 305 male participants, following the men from their first year at school until their early thirties.

The participants completed regular assessments on psychosocial, behavioural, and biological risk factors for poor health, and researchers collected data from children, parents, and teachers on involvement in bullying behaviour when the participants were 10 to 12 years old. As adults the participants were asked to complete questionnaires on psychosocial health factors such as stress levels, health history, diet and exercise, and socioeconomic status, and around 260 of the men were given blood tests, cardiovascular and inflammation assessments, and measured for their height and weight.

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The team found that men who were bullies during childhood were more likely to still be aggressive and hostile as adults, to smoke cigarettes – a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease – and to use marijuana and experience stressful circumstances, more than 20 years later.

Men who were victims of bullying also faced more negative outcomes as adults, and were more likely to have lower incomes, financial difficulties, more stressful life experiences, to feel more unfairly treated by others, and were less optimistic about their future, factors which are also related to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

“Both groups had a lot of stress in their adult lives – so the impact of childhood bullying lasts a long time,” said lead researcher Karen Matthews. The team said the findings are particularly important as they put the men at a higher risk for poor health in later life, including serious cardiovascular conditions.

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“The long-term effects of bullying involvement are important to establish,” added Matthews. “Most research on bullying is based on addressing mental health outcomes, but we wished to examine the potential impact of involvement in bullying on physical health and psychosocial risk factors for poor physical health.”

This previous research has also linked psychosocial risk factors such as stress, anger, and hostility to increased risk of physical health problems such as heart attacks, stroke, and high blood pressure. The new findings suggest that identifying children who are at risk of being bullies or being bullied and intervening early on could have a positive on health that lasts well into adulthood.

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The results can be found published online in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. AFP

France enacts ban on super-thin models and requirement to signal a photo’s airbrushed

Super-thin models and secretly airbrushed photoshoots will soon be a thing of the past in fashion hub France, as authorities passed measures to protect young people from the dangers of anorexia.

A new law entered into force compels all models operating in France to provide a doctor’s note certifying that their body mass index (BMI) is not too low and that they are in overall good health. Under a second law, to come into force in October, all pictures of models that have been altered or photoshopped will have to carry a disclaimer to that effect.

The health ministry said the two measures aimed “to avoid the promotion of unattainable ideas of beauty and to prevent youth anorexia” as well as to protect the health of models, who are especially at risk from being underweight.

France to ban super-skinny models in battle against anorexia

The doctor’s note will be valid for two years and will look particularly at a model’s BMI, with a reading under 18.5 classed underweight and liable to suffer from health problems. BMI is calculated based on a ratio of height to weight, with the average range generally between 18.5 and 24.9. Employers contravening these laws could be liable to up to six months in prison and a fine of up to US$82,500.

About 600,000 young people are thought to suffer from eating disorders in France, including 40,000 people suffering from anorexia. Eating disorders are the second-most common cause of death of 15-24 year-olds, after road accidents.

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The new laws follow similar measures taken in Spain in 2006, which banned models with a BMI under 18 from Madrid Fashion Week. Israel has also banned agencies from employing models with a BMI under 18.5, as well as Photoshopping. In Italy, there is no precise law but the top agencies do not employ models with a BMI under 18.5. AFP

When malaria infects placenta during pregnancy, baby’s immunity can be affected

Mothers infected with malaria during pregnancy can pass more of their own cells to their baby and change the infant’s risk of later infection, a new study shows. The study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, in the United States, suggests that a mother’s cells could directly act as part of her child’s immune system, even after birth.

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The placenta blocks some infectious agents, but easily passes oxygen and nutrients to the baby. It also allows a unique exchange of cells between mother and child, known as “microchimerism”. The research team looked at how malaria can alter the mother-child cell sharing that happens during pregnancy. It was led by Dr Whitney Harrington, University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital paediatric infectious disease specialist, and Fred Hutch microchimerism researcher Dr. J. Lee Nelson.

Most babies carry a very small number of foreign cells acquired from their mothers, on the order of a few maternal cells in every 100,000, but the researchers found that babies born to Tanzanian mothers infected with malaria during pregnancy and whose infections had travelled to their placentas had evidence for far more maternal cells on board at the time of their births – on average about 1 per cent, with a few cases even higher than 10 per cent. The level of increase of mother’s cells present in baby’s blood was a surprise to the researchers.

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Harrington hypothesises that the infection led to alterations in placental proteins that control cell trafficking, which allowed more maternal cells to enter the fetuses. Even more surprising was the lasting effect of this change. When the researchers looked at the health records of the babies, they found that those with higher levels of maternal microchimerism were twice as likely to be infected with malaria during childhood, but only half as likely to get sick from that infection, suggesting that the cells transferred from the mothers might confer some protection against the disease. EurekaAlert.com