Anew study on the effects of bullying on children and adolescents has found victims often battle psychosomatic demons – including depression, low self-esteem and thoughts of suicide – that can plague them the rest of their lives.
Countries worldwide should regard “bullying as a significant international health problem” that is a dire threat to children’s and teen’s mental and physical health in both the short- and long-term, said Dr. Gianluca Gini, co-author of the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
“Our research demonstrated the negative consequences of bullying across a wide spectrum of age groups and countries,” said Gini, who works in the department of developmental and social psychology at the University of Padua in Italy. Calling bullying victimization a worldwide risk factor, she said parents and teachers should be on high alert if they see children exhibiting warning signs such as anxiety, depression, fears about going to school, lack of friends, unexplainable injuries, lost or destroyed personal clothing, books or electronics, declining grades or lack of interest in schoolwork.
Gini and her colleague, Tiziana Pozzoli, analyzed 30 studies from around the world, including Europe, the Netherlands, Asia, Australia, the United States and Canada. Gini said their research concluded that bullied children are twice as likely as non-bullied children to experience psychosomatic symptoms.
She advised parents and educators to be on the lookout for other health symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, sleeping problems, abdominal pain and bedwetting. Early intervention, Gini added, is key in helping a child who is experiencing peer victimization, which tragically, can lead to suicide.