People who have suffered bullying or sexual abuse have a lower quality of life similar to those living with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, depression or severe anxiety, a new study has found.
The findings, led by University of Adelaide researchers, found that the victims of bullying and sexual abuse were three times more likely to be binge eaters than people who had never experienced these forms of abuse.
Anti-depressant use was up to four times more likely and smoking dependence was twice as frequent for such people.
They are also far more likely to display harmful behaviour like smoking dependence and had a reduced quality of life.
"If a doctor finds a patient with multiple harmful behaviours -- like smoking dependence and binge eating -- who is depressed and has a lower quality of life, they should consider exploring whether these patients were victims of bullying and/or sexual abuse," said David Gonzalez-Chica from the varsity.
"Identifying survivors of both forms of abuse is important to provide support and reduce more severe mental and physical consequences, such as suicide," Gonzalez-Chica added.
The study, published in BMC Public Health journal, investigated around 3,000 Australians who took part in face-to-face interviews using self-labelling questions to measure the age of onset and duration of bullying and sexual assault and their outcomes during home interviews.
While 60-70 per cent of these forms of abuse occurred in childhood or adolescence, they were associated with worse outcomes later in life.
If someone had two or more adverse outcomes (smoking dependence, binge eating, antidepressant use, and a lower quality of life) the probability they had suffered bullying and/or sexual abuse ranged between 60-85 per cent.