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There is now a strong body of literature showing that bullying victimisation during childhood and adolescence precedes the later development of anxiety and depressive disorders. This study aimed to quantify the burden of anxiety and depressive disorders attributable to experiences of bullying victimisation for the Australian population.
This study updated a previous systematic review summarising the longitudinal association between bullying victimisation and anxiety and depressive disorders. Estimates from eligible studies published from inception until 18 August 2018 were included and meta-analyses were based on quality-effects models. Pooled relative risks were combined with a contemporary prevalence estimate for bullying victimisation for Australia in order to calculate population attributable fractions (PAFs) for the two mental disorder outcomes. PAFs were then applied to estimates of the burden of anxiety and depressive disorders in Australia expressed as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).
The findings from this study suggest 7.8% of the burden of anxiety disorders and 10.8% of the burden of depressive disorders are attributable to bullying victimisation in Australia. An estimated 30 656 DALYs or 0.52% (95% uncertainty interval 0.33–0.72%) of all DALYs in both sexes and all ages in Australia were attributable to experiences of bullying victimisation in childhood or adolescence.
There is convincing evidence to demonstrate a causal relationship between bullying victimisation and mental disorders. This study showed that bullying victimisation contributes a significant proportion of the burden of anxiety and depressive disorders. The investment and implementation of evidence-based intervention programmes that reduce bullying victimisation in schools could reduce the burden of disease arising from common mental disorders and improve the health of Australians.