Bullying Victims Likely to Think About Suicide

Peer bullying may be a risk factor for suicidal thoughts and attempts

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Between 5 and 20 percent of youths around the world are victims of bullying. Without help, these young people may start thinking about harming themselves.

A recent analysis of multiple studies found that bullying was a risk factor for suicidal thinking and attempts among children and teenagers.

The researchers suggested that schools use evidence-based practices to reduce bullying.

"Tell a trusted adult if you are being bullied."

The lead author of this analysis was Mitch van Geel, PhD, from the Institute of Education and Child Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Dr. van Geel and colleagues analyzed 34 previously published studies on the relationship between peer victimization and suicidal ideation. These studies included a combined total of 284,375 participants. These researchers also analyzed nine previously published studies on the relationship between peer victimization and suicide attempts, with a total of 70,102 participants.

Peer victimization was characterized as bullying and causing physical, social, emotional and/or psychological harm to a peer. Suicidal ideation was defined as thoughts or wishes of suicide or actually planning suicide.

All of the participants were between the ages of 9 and 21 years old.

The analyzed studies were published between 1910 and 2013.

The findings showed that the young people who were peer victimized had 2.23 times increased odds of having suicidal ideation compared to the young folks who had not been peer victimized.

Peer victimization was associated with 2.55 times increased odds of attempting suicide.

Sex, age and study quality did not affect these findings.

The researchers found that cyberbullying was significantly more related to suicidal ideation than traditional bullying. However, only three studies were specific to cyberbullying, so more research is needed to confirm this finding.

Dr. van Geel and team concluded that efforts should continue to identify bullying and offer comprehensive help to the victims through prevention and intervention programs.

These researchers noted some limitations of their study. First, most studies focused on the combinations of different types of bullying (i.e., physical and verbal), so the authors could not determine the effects of specific types of bullying. Second, the authors did not have data on the severity of suicidal ideation.

Additionally, factors such as mental health history and history of suicide attempts were not included in this analysis. Lastly, there were not any studies on successful suicide attempts.

This analysis was published on March 10 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Review Date: 
March 9, 2014
Last Updated:
March 11, 2014