Bullying associated with poorer health among middle school children

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1. Among children surveyed regarding bullying along with mental and physical health, those experiencing bullying over an extended period of time had significantly worse psychosocial, physical health, and mood than those experiencing bullying solely in the past or present.

Study Rundown: Previous research implicates childhood bullying in the development of mental and physical health problems. While this association has been previously investigated, this study stands as one of the few pieces of research to examine the effects of bullying over time. Through the use of self-report surveys administered to children in grades 5-10, this study found that children who experienced bullying over a longer time period were significantly more likely to have decreased psychosocial and physical quality of life, worse feelings of self-worth, and increased symptoms of depression than those who did not experience bullying or had isolated past or present experiences with bullying. Though this study was limited by its geographic scope (including students from school districts only in Alabama, California and Texas) and use of self-report, it emphasizes the significant role of bullying in health over time. This connection further highlights the importance of effective bullying interventions that may be implemented by clinicians, parents and school staff.

Click to read the study in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Bullying behaviors among US youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment

Study Author, Dr. Laura Bogart, PhD, talks to 2 Minute Medicine: Harvard Medical School, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Boston Children’s Hospital, Research Director, Division of General Pediatrics.

“Clinicians can educate children and their parents about the signs and effects of bullying.  The signs might be physical, like unexplained cuts, or related to mental health, like anxiety, sadness, or not wanting to go to school. Clinicians can also refer kids to mental health counseling when bullying first starts, in order to prevent long-term negative consequences and provide them with skills to cope with any future bullying.”

In-Depth [longitudinal study]: This study involved analysis of the association between childhood bullying and health as quantified by scores of mental and physical quality of life, depression, and self-worth on self-report surveys at 3 time points. During fifth, seventh and tenth grades, 4297 students (mean age = 11.1 + 0.6 years, 51.1% male, 44.4% Latino, 29% African American, and 22% white) from specific school districts within California, Alabama, and Texas completed assessments at all 3 time points. A total of 30.2% of participants reported bullying on ≥ 1 of the assessment waves. Fifth graders who were bullied had significantly lower psychological health (measured as the lowest decile on the quality of life survey) compared to those who were not bullied (30.7% v. 4.3%, P < .001). When assessed in tenth grade, significantly more students who had been bullied over time were in the lowest decile of psychosocial quality of life compared to currently bullied students (44.6% v. 30.7%, P < .01), those bullied only in the past (44.6% v. 12.1%, P < .001), and those who were never bullied (44.6% v. 6.5%, P < .001).

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