Bullying can lead to emotional problems, especially in girls

August 30, 2001

Does bullying cause emotional problems? A prospective study of young teenagers BMJ Volume 323, pp 480-4

A history of bullying predicts the onset of anxiety or depressive symptoms, especially in young teenage girls, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Over 2,600 secondary school students in Victoria, Australia were surveyed about bullying, twice in year 8 (aged 13 years) and 12 months later, at the end of year 9. Students were classified as victimised if they answered "yes" to four types of victimisation: being teased, having rumours spread about them, being deliberately excluded, or experiencing physical threats or violence.

The level of victimisation was high and relatively stable in this group. Two thirds of the students who were bullied recurrently in year 8 also reported being bullied in year 9. A history of victimisation was a strong predictor of self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, even after taking into account other measures of social relations. This was especially the case for girls.

Further work is needed to determine if a reduction in bullying can reduce the onset of anxiety and depressive symptoms in teenagers, say the authors, but the indications from this study are that such a reduction could have a substantial impact on the emotional wellbeing of young people, they conclude.
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BMJ

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