Nearly 30 percent of all school students are bullied, reports a new research in The Lancet. Adolescent boys belonging to low socio-economic regions are also more likely to be bullied as compared to their richer counterparts.
Previously, the US School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey had stated that the self-reported rate of bullied children at school was 21 percent, in 2015. The new study describes a higher rate of bullying worldwide.
This is important as it has been shown that children and teens that are bullied in school can experience adverse psychological, physical and academic effects. Such children can suffer from short- and long-term effects like anxiety, alcohol and drug use, aggression, low self-esteem, involvement in crime, and self-harming behavior.
Self-harming behavior is even more pronounced in girls than boys who have been bullied. However, bullied boys are more likely to engage in criminal activity. Bullied children also have higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. Bullied children and those who are bullying other children are also more likely to attempt suicide.
The study had financial support from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Metro North Mental Health, Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, Harvard Medical School and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
The study’s objective was to see the overall prevalence of bullying and to observe if there were any significant differences in the rates of bullying in low-middle income countries and high-income countries.
The data was taken from the Global School-based Student Health Survey of school children aged 12–17 years, between 2003 and 2015. The survey was based on data from 83 low-middle income and high-income countries. The participants included 317,869 adolescents of which 151,036 (48%) were males, and 166,833 (52%) females.
The study used multiple binary logistic regression model to observe any differences in bullying rates among different countries.
The results showed that a large number of adolescents irrespective of income status were bullied. Also, there was a wide variation between countries in the prevalence of bullying victimization. This shows that social and cultural factors are influential in the national prevalence of bullying.
Highest rates of bullying were observed in Eastern Mediterranean and African countries as opposed to European countries. Boys were more likely to be bullied than girls and younger children were at a greater risk of being bullied.
Another finding of the study showed that increased peer and parental support was effective in curbing bullying victimization. It was also seen that parents who spent more free time with their children were less likely to have children that were bullied.
One of the researchers, Professor James Scott from the QIMR Berghofer Mental Health Program, explained that ‘the variation between countries and regions, along with the findings that peer and parental supports reduce the risk of bullying, can inform strategic interventions’. He further said that reducing the worldwide burden of bullying will help ease diseases associated with mental illness in adolescents. Another researcher, Professor Janeen Baxter, added that any interventions to address this problem will also address the major social and economic costs in lost productivity and life opportunities.