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Jim Liebelt Christian Blog and Commentary

Bullying Linked to Depression in Youths

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on Psychiatric Times.

In a recently published review of studies on the affects of bullying and cyberbullying on teenagers, researchers found that teenagers who have been bullied experience depression at higher rates than those who have not been bullied.

In one of the reviewed studies, researchers examined the association between being bullied by peers at age 13 and the occurrence of depression at 18 years. The study comprised 6719 adolescents from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children cohort in the UK. About 10% of the participants reported frequent bullying at age 13. The proportion of youths with depression increased with the frequency of bullying: 14.8% of the youths who were frequently bullied met criteria for depression, whereas 7.1% of youths who were occasionally bullied and 5.5% of youths who were not bullied met criteria for depression.

The odds ratio was 2.96 for increased rates of depression for youths who were frequently bullied compared with those who were not bullied, even after controlling for previous bullying in childhood and previous depressive symptoms. This association was found for both males and females.

Overall 29.2% of the total risk of depression at age 18 years could be explained by peer bullying during adolescence. The researchers caution that these are observational data; therefore, it is not possible to be certain about causal associations. Nevertheless, they recommend the prevention of bullying in schools as a means to reduce the incidence of depression in adolescence and early adulthood.

Cyberbullying, which allows bullying to extend beyond face-to-face contact into electronic media, has received considerable recent attention. Researchers examined its effects via social media among children and adolescents. They included 36 studies of cyberbullying in their review. Most youths in these studies were middle and high school students, aged 12 to 18 years. The majority were female (55.8%).

Across these studies, 23% of the youths reported having been bullied online. The most common electronic social media platforms for bullying included message boards, social networking sites, blogs, Twitter, and Web pages. The most common types of cyberbullying were name-calling or insults, circulating pictures, and spreading gossip and rumors. Often relationship issues preceded the bullying. Girls were more likely to be cyberbullied than boys.

Adolescents who had been cyberbullied reported becoming more withdrawn, losing self-esteem, and feeling uneasy. There were adverse effects on relationships with family and friends. School grades worsened, there were more school absences, and behavior problems in school became common.

Depression was associated with cyberbullying. The adolescent’s level of depression increased significantly with exposure to cyberbullying. In some cases, cyberbullying was associated with self-harm behavior and suicidal ideation and attempts.

The most common strategies employed by the adolescents to deal with cyberbullying were to block the sender, ignore or avoid messaging, and protect personal information. Nearly 25% of the adolescents did not tell anyone about the cyberbullying. If they did tell someone, it was most likely to be a friend rather than an adult. Often adolescents perceived that nothing could be done to prevent the bullying, and if they told their parent about the bullying, they would lose access to the computer. The researchers suggest that increased awareness of the prevalence of cyberbullying and its adverse effects may lead to better prevention and management strategies.

Source: Psychiatric Times