Student Well-Being

Being a Bully Has Health Benefits, Study Finds

By Evie Blad — May 13, 2014 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Could bullying be good for you? Some researchers have found being a childhood bully seems to correlate with at least one isolated positive health indicator. And, conversely, being the target of that bullying might have negative health effects. Shhh ... Don’t share this study with the bullies in your school. We wouldn’t want name-calling to be a part of a student’s health regimen along with protein shakes and Rocky-style runs up and down flights of stairs.

Researchers at Duke University School of Medicine analyzed levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of low-grade inflammation, in randomly selected participants of the Great Smoky Mountains Study, which has gathered information from 1,420 North Carolina residents for two decades. Heightened C-reactive protein levels could be an indicator of health problems including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and infections.

Studied subjects were between ages 9 and 16 at the time of the research. In interviews, they were identified as bullies, bullying victims, a combination of the two, or neither. Here’s the big finding from the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week:

Although CRP levels rose for all groups as they entered adulthood, victims of childhood bullying had much higher CRP levels as adults than the other groups. In fact, the CRP levels increased with the number of times the individuals were bullied. "Young adults who had been both bullies and victims as children had CRP levels similar to those not involved in bullying, while bullies had the lowest CRP—even lower than those uninvolved in bullying. Thus, being a bully and enhancing one's social status through this interaction may protect against increases in the inflammatory marker."

The bad news: Along with the more well-understood psychological effects of being bullied, such as depression and higher risk of substance abuse later in life, researchers are increasingly realizing that bullying victims may have poorer physical health as well. According to a news release about the study:

While bullying is more common and perceived as less harmful than childhood abuse or maltreatment, the findings suggest that bullying can disrupt levels of inflammation into adulthood, similar to what is seen in other forms of childhood trauma."

The good news: There are other, more positive social states that correlate with low levels of inflammatory markers, researchers wrote. That feeling of power and heightened social status associated with bullying might also be achieved through self-confidence and a positive attitude. Think about the students who climb the social ladder at school: Sure, some of them are bullies, but many of them are emotionally intelligent kids with great attitudes.

Researchers also found that subjects who ping ponged between considering themselves bullies and victims had negative health effects, which suggests repeated interruptions in one’s perceived social status could have negative health effects. It seems those effects could be counteracted with less concern for social status, or through everyone’s favorite social-emotional buzzword—grit.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Educators, Be Future-Ready, But Don’t Ignore the Present
Being ready for what lies ahead is important, but we also need to gain a better understanding of the here and now.
5 min read
shutterstock 226918177
Student Well-Being Opinion How to Prioritize Student Well-Being This Year
Use the Student Thriving Index to find out where your kids stand. Because you cannot manage what you cannot measure.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Supporting Teachers & Students
In this Spotlight, evaluate your district and what supports your schools offer, assess attendance policies to avoid burnout, and more
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Child Hospitalizations Spike Under Delta, Particularly in Low-Vaccination States
Nationwide, the number of children and teens hospitalized due to COVID-19 has ballooned nearly tenfold since midsummer, new CDC data show.
2 min read
hopital stethescope 1222194507
Aleksandr Titov/iStock/Getty