But bullying leaves people with poor self-esteem and a lasting sense of distrust of other people, he told Live Science. "Being socially excluded and being a social outcast is about the worst stress that we can experience, more than other pains."
Although people are becoming more aware of how harmful bullying can be, efforts in the United .States. to tackle the problem are spotty, said William Copeland, an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, who helped conduct the study. "I think it's often the case that children that are bullied are not always supported in that, and told to deal with it themselves," Copeland said.
And in fact, this lack of support and validation could further exacerbate the harmful consequences of bullying, he said.
"If someone's maltreated, we tend to validate them, to tell them that it's not their fault," he said. "With bullying, it's sometimes the case that the response is a lot less supportive, more of a shrug."
Nevertheless, most people who are victims of child abuse or of bullying by peers go on to be healthy adults, and Copeland and his colleagues want to find out why. "We really want to better understand how to predict resilience in the face of these challenges," he said.
Still, he said, "The best thing we can do is try to prevent these things from happening in the first place."