The Deadly Side-effects of Bullying

by Tanya Thomas on Jul 19 2008 5:29 PM

Bullying, a burgeoning malady in many schools, has a deadly side to it. Researchers who conducted a review of studies from 13 countries claim that bullied not only causes teenagers stress, but it may even push them towards committing suicide.

Yale School of Medicine researchers have found evidence that there's an apparent link between bullying, being bullied and suicide in children,

In the review, lead author Young-Shin Kim, M.D., assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine's Child Study Center and colleagues, examined 37 studies that examined bullying and suicide among children and adolescents. The studies took place in the United States, Canada, several European countries (including the United Kingdom and Germany), South Korea, Japan and South Africa.

"While there is no definitive evidence that bullying makes kids more likely to kill themselves, now that we see there's a likely association, we can act on it and try to prevent it," said Kim.

It was found that almost all of the studies showed connections between being bullied and suicidal thoughts among children. Five reported that bullying victims were two to nine times more likely to report suicidal thoughts than other children were.

And the danger was not limited to the victims alone, as those who bullied were also at risk.

"The perpetrators who are the bullies also have an increased risk for suicidal behaviors," said Kim.

But, Kim said that the way the studies were designed made it impossible for researchers to determine conclusively whether bullying leads to suicide. Besides, it was also found that the majority of the studies failed to consider the influence of factors like gender, psychiatric problems and a history of suicide attempts.

Kim got interested in bullying when she visited South Korea many years ago and heard several new slang terms referring to bullies and their victims. She said that the words reflected "an elaborated system of bullying.".

While in the United States, a large number of adults ridicule bullying and say, "Oh, that's what happens when kids are growing up," But Kim argues that bullying is serious and causes major problems for children.

Currently studying if being bullied actually leads to suicide, nut Kim acknowledges that it will be difficult for researchers to get a firm grasp on a cause-and-effect relationship.

And in order to confirm a definitive link, researchers would have to rule out the possibility that some unknown factor makes certain children more susceptible to both bullying and suicide. She also said that right now the existing research should encourage adults to pay more attention to bullying and signs of suicidal behavior in children.

"When we see kids who are targets of bullying, we should ask them if they're thinking about hurting themselves. We should evaluate and prevent these things from happening," she said.

The study is published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health.