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Does bullying cause health problems?

Almost 3,000 children (aged 7 to 10 years) were interviewed by school nurses in London primary schools in the academic year 1992-93. It was found that there was more chance of children having health problems if they were being bullied. The symptoms they mentioned included poor sleep, bed wetting, feeling sad, headaches and stomach pains. It was also found that as the frequency of bullying increased, so did the risk of having these health problems.
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Article details

K Williams, M Chambers, S Logan, D Robinson (1996) 'Association of Common Health Symptoms with Bullying in Primary School Children', in 'British Medical Journal', Volume 313, Issue 7048.
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Graph details

See the graph in the above article, page 4, table 4, 'Association between reported bullying and other health symptoms'.

In 1994, 276 pupils in the first two years of an Australian secondary school were involved in the first part of a survey looking at possible links between bullying and health. In 1997, 126 senior pupils in the school (including some who took part 3 years before) were involved in the second part. It was found that bullying in the lower years can have a negative effect on physical health, both at the time and lasting into later school years. Pupils' answers revealed that bullying also had a negative effect on the mental health of the girls. However, this effect on mental and physical health was not found in the older pupils who were bullied in the upper years.
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Article details

K Rigby (1999) 'Peer Victimisation at School and the Health of Secondary School Students' in 'British Journal of Educational Psychology', Volume 69, pages 95-104.
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Author details

Ken RigbyKen Rigby is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Psychology and an educational consultant at the University of South Australia. He has been involved in major studies of bullying in Australia and has published widely on this topic. For more information about Dr Rigby and his work see the bullying pages here. Ken may be contacted by e-mail.

An English study involved 1,639 primary school pupils and their parents. It found that there was a link between direct bullying (for example hitting) and common health problems, although the link was not as strong as that found in other studies. It did not find a link between the social/psychological type of bullying (for example keeping someone out of things) and health problems. It was found that those involved in direct bullying, as victims or as both victim and bully (victim/bully) and also girls, were most likely to suffer from physical health problems such as colds and coughs. Another finding was that those involved in direct bullying as victims or victim/bully and also year 2 children, were more likely to suffer from problems such as anxiety about going to school and sleep problems. According to this study, the bully was not only healthier than the victims but also than the children who were not directly involved.
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Article details

D Wolke, S Woods, L Bloomfield, L Karstadt (2001) 'Bullying Involvement in Primary School and Common Health Problems' in 'Archives of Disease in Childhood', Volume 85, pages 197-201.

856 Norwegian teenagers took part in a bullying study in 1995. The study was looking at links between bullying and health. It considered both physical complaints (such as headaches, dizziness and stomach ache) and psychological complaints (such as feeling low, nervousness and irritability). It found that bullied children were far more likely than those who had never been bullied, to suffer from a wide range of symptoms. Surprisingly, the one symptom which the bullied teenagers did not suffer from more often than the non bullied ones, was sleeplessness. The most common psychological symptom amongst the bullied children was feeling low. It was also found that the number of symptoms increased with the amount of bullying.
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Article details

G K Natvig, G Albreksten and U Qvarnstrøm (2001) 'Psychosomatic Symptoms Among Victims of School Bullying' in 'Journal of Health Psychology', Volume 4, Issue 4.
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Graph details

See table 3, page 371 in the above article.

In the mid 1990s, 723 secondary school pupils in Sheffield answered questions about the effects of bullying and ways of coping with it. Of the 34% of students who had been bullied, all had found it stressful. 11% had found it extremely stressful. Many of the pupils (44%) said that they felt irritable. Other effects included: feeling panicky and nervous, having recurring bad memories about what had happened, suffering concentration problems and feeling physically ill.
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Article details

S Sharp (1995) 'How Much Does Bullying Hurt? The Effects of Bullying on the Personal Wellbeing and Educational Progress of Secondary Aged Students' in 'Educational and Child Psychology', Volume 12, Number 2, pages 81 - 88.
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Graph details

'Effects of bullying on students', graph 3, page 85 in the above article.

A study of over 2,000 secondary school pupils in Australia found that bullying can have an effect on later mental health. The young people were interviewed twice in year 8 (13 years) and once in year 9. The results showed that there was a link between bullying and later anxiety and depression. This link was particularly strong for girls.
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Article details

L Bond et al (2001) 'Does Bullying Cause Emotional Problems? A prospective study of young teenagers' in 'British Medical Journal', Volume 323, September.
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