Being bullied in secondary school leads to poorer outcomes later in life – and persistent or violent types of bullying have the worst consequences. These are the central findings of a new study by researchers at Lancaster University (Emma Gorman and Ian Walker), the University of Wollongong (Silvia Mendolia) and the University of Sydney (Colm Harmon and Anita Staneva).

The research, which will be presented at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference at the University of Warwick in April 2019, analyses confidential data on over 7,000 school pupils aged 14-16 from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England. The results shows that:

  • Bullying is common in schools: about half of pupils reported experiencing some type of bullying between the ages of 14 and 16.

Experiencing bullying of any kind has negative consequences for academic achievement in schools:

  • Being bullied reduces the probability of gaining five or more good GCSE passes (grades A*-C) by 10%.
  • Being bullied reduces the probability of staying on to take A-levels by 10%.

These negative effects are persistent, with implications for outcomes measured at age 25:

  • Being bullied in school increases the probability of being unemployed at age 25 by about 35%; and for those in work, it reduces income by about 2%.
  • Being bullied in school increases the extent of mental health problems at age 25 by 40%.

The researchers also find evidence that while all types of bullying have negative consequences, persistent bullying or violent bullying have greater negative impacts than less frequent or non-violent bullying.


The researchers use confidential data on over 7,000 school pupils from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, aged between 14 and 16. The data contain information on how frequently the children were bullied, and what type of bullying they experienced.

Examples include being called names, being excluded from social groups, being threatened with violence, experiencing violence and having their possessions taken from them. This information was reported by both the child and parent, so the researchers could gain a detailed picture of the patterns of bullying.

What are the main conclusions?

Being bullied in school has a negative impact on important academic and long-term outcomes, especially unemployment and mental health problems.
These effects are more pronounced among pupils who experience persistent bullying or violent types of bullying.

The findings suggest that a targeted approach to reduce more extreme forms of bullying may be warranted.

Motivation for the study

Bullying is widespread in schools, and many studies document a negative relationship between bullying and educational outcomes. Bullying is an important policy issue because of concern that in addition to educational outcomes, being bullied may lead to long-run negative impacts on young people’s lives, such as low self-esteem, mental health conditions and poorer job prospects.

But there is little evidence available on whether being bullied leads to poorer outcomes, and if so, the magnitudes of the effects. Similarly, there is little evidence about the consequences of different types and frequencies of bullying, or the longer-term effects. This study fills that gap by providing new evidence on the consequences of being bullied in schools in England.

Earlier research has shown that anti-bullying programmes are effective in reducing the extent of bullying in schools: this study complements that work to quantify the potential gains from such policies. Then, the benefits from reducing bullying in schools could be compared with the cost of anti-bullying programmes.

The Causal Effects of School Bullying Victimisation as an Adolescent on Later Life Outcomes by Emma Gorman (Lancaster University Management School), Colm Harmon (University of Sydney), Silvia Mendolia (University of Wollongong), Anita Staneva (University of Sydney) and Ian Walker (Lancaster University Management School)