Health News

Bullies face even more health risks than victims

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Both bullies and their victims are at risk for problems that threaten their health, safety and education -- but the bullies themselves may be more affected, a new study suggests.

Based on a survey of nearly 9,600 U.S. students in grades 6 through 10, researchers found that 39 percent had been a victim or perpetrator of bullying -- or in some cases, both.

Compared with their peers, all of these students had a higher risk of physical injuries -- whether accidental, inflicted by other people or self-inflicted, the researchers report in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health.

They were also more likely to abuse over-the-counter medications, harm animals or other people, use weapons or be frequently absent from school.

But while both victims and bullies were more likely to have such problems, it was bullies -- including those who were sometimes injured themselves -- who had the greatest risk.

“We see that the (obvious) victims are not the only victims. The bullies are also victims of their own emotional problems,” lead researcher Dr. Jorge Srabstein, of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said in a written statement.

Srabstein and his colleague Dr. Thomas Piazza found that students who bullied also showed some risk behavior not seen among their victims. For example, they were more likely than their peers to drink or use any type of drug, set fires, get poor grades and skip classes.

The findings, the researchers write, “should urgently alert pediatric practitioners and educators to the need for joining efforts in the prevention of this very serious public health issue.”

Both the perpetrators and the victims of bullying, Srabstein said, should be referred for professional help if they show problems such as those reported in this study.

SOURCE: International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, July 15, 2008.