Increased risk of sadness and suicidality among victims of bullying experiencing additional threats to physical safety

Tammy B. Pham 1  and Andrew Adesman 2
  • 1 Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Lake Success, NY, USA
  • 2 Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, 1983 Marcus Avenue, Suite 130 Lake Success, NY 11042, USA
Tammy B. Pham
  • Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, Lake Success, NY, USA
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and Andrew Adesman
  • Corresponding author
  • Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, 1983 Marcus Avenue, Suite 130 Lake Success, NY 11042, USA
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Abstract

Objective

To examine, in a nationally-representative sample of high school students, to what extent one or more additional threats to physical safety exacerbates the risk of sadness and suicidality among victims of school and/or cyber-bullying.

Methods

National data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) were analyzed for grades 9–12 (n = 15,624). Victimization groups were characterized by school-bullying and cyber-bullying, with and without additional threats to physical safety: fighting at school, being threatened/injured at school, and skipping school out of fear for one’s safety. Outcomes included 2-week sadness and suicidality. Outcomes for victimization groups were compared to non-victims using logistic regression adjusting for sex, grade and race/ethnicity.

Results

Overall, 20.2% of students were school-bullied, and 15.5% were cyber-bullied in the past year. Compared to non-victims, victims of school-bullying and victims of cyber-bullying (VoCBs) who did not experience additional threats to physical safety were 2.76 and 3.83 times more likely to report 2-week sadness, and 3.39 and 3.27 times more likely to exhibit suicidality, respectively. Conversely, victims of bullying who experienced one or more additional threats to physical safety were successively more likely to report these adverse outcomes. Notably, victims of school-bullying and VoCBs with all three additional risk factors were 13.13 and 17.75 times more likely to exhibit suicidality, respectively.

Conclusion

Risk of depression symptoms and suicidality among victims of school-bullying and/or cyber-bullying is greatly increased among those who have experienced additional threats to physical safety: fighting at school, being threatened/injured at school and skipping school out of fear for their safety.

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