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Bullying Linked With Increased Suicide Attempts in Adolescents Worldwide

August 29, 2019

Adolescents who were bullied within the past month were approximately 3 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, compared with peers who did not experiencing bullying, according to a study of 12- to 15-year-olds across 48 countries published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

“Prevention of bullying should be considered in suicide prevention strategies,” researchers advised in the study. “Mental health practitioners should be cognizant of the fact that bullying victimization can be the cause of suicide attempts, and it is important to assess suicidality in adolescents who are bullied.”

The study looked at nationally representative data for 134,229 adolescent students from 9 high-income, 33 middle-income, and 6 low-income countries around the world. Data was collected using the World Health Organization’s Global School-based Student Health Survey.

Suicide Prevention: Predictors, Warning Signs, and Interventions

In all, 30.4% of students reported bullying victimization within the past 30 days, and 10.7% reported a suicide attempt within the past 12 months, according to the study. Adolescents who were bullied at least 1 day in the past 30 days had more than triple the odds of reporting a suicide attempt.

What’s more, the more days students experienced bullying, the higher their odds of having a suicide attempt. For example, adolescents who were bullied for more than 20 days within the past 30 days had a 5.51 times increased likelihood of a suicide attempt, compared with adolescents who were not bullied.

“The high prevalence of bullying victimization and the substantially heightened dose-dependent risk for suicide attempts among adolescent bullying victims, across multiple continents found in our study, point to the urgent need to implement effective and evidence-based interventions to address bullying for the prevention of adolescent suicides and suicide attempts worldwide,” said lead author Ai Koyanagi, MD, a research professor at Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Deu, Barcelona, Spain.

—Jolynn Tumolo

References

Koyanagi A, Oh H, Carvalho AF, et al. Bullying victimization and suicide attempt among adolescents aged 12-15 years from 48 countries. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2019;58(9):907-918.

Trauma begets trauma: bullying associated with increased suicide attempts among 12-to-15-year-olds [press release]. Washington, DC: Elsevier; August 15, 2019.

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