Targeted Rejection Impacts Immune System for Life

Wednesday October 31, 2012

By Sherri M. Gordon

There was an interesting study published this year in Clinical Psychological Science that demonstrated the devastating effects that relational aggression can have a person's long-term health.

According to the study, when teen girls are excluded, rejected or ostracized by friends this has a measurable impact on their immune systems. And if the bullying continues, this increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, mental illness and some cancers later in life. What's more, this impact can be even more devastating in girls who have a higher social status because they appear to have more to lose.

Scientists have known for a while that bullying affects kids in multiple ways including impacting their physical health. In fact, previous research showed that targeted rejection leads to depression three times faster than other depressing life events. So researchers wanted to find out how targeted rejection or being ostracized impacts the immune system.

What they found in girls who had experienced targeted rejection is that they experienced higher levels of inflammatory proteins, which if sustained could impact their health for life. Imagine learning years later that your increased risk for heart disease or stroke is directly related to the bullying you experienced as a tween or teen.

For this reason, it is especially important for parents to not only be able to spot bullying in their children's lives, but also help them cope with being ostracized.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto


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