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Bullying and mental health and suicidal behaviour among 14- to 15-year-olds in a representative sample of Australian children




Ford, Rebecca
King, Tania
Priest, Naomi
Kavanagh, Anne

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SAGE Publications


Objective: To provide the first Australian population-based estimates of the association between bullying and adverse mental health outcomes and suicidality among Australian adolescents. Method: Analysis of data from 3537 adolescents, aged 14–15 years from Wave 6 of the K-cohort of Longitudinal Study of Australian Children was conducted. We used Poisson and linear regression to estimate associations between bullying type (none, relational-verbal, physical, both types) and role (no role, victim, bully, victim and bully), and mental health (measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, symptoms of anxiety and depression) and suicidality. Results: Adolescents involved in bullying had significantly increased Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, depression and anxiety scores in all bullying roles and types. In terms of self-harm and suicidality, bully-victims had the highest risk of self-harm (prevalence rate ratio 4.7, 95% confidence interval [3.26, 6.83]), suicidal ideation (prevalence rate ratio 4.3, 95% confidence interval [2.83, 6.49]), suicidal plan (prevalence rate ratio 4.1, 95% confidence interval [2.54, 6.58]) and attempts (prevalence rate ratio 2.7, 95% confidence interval [1.39, 5.13]), followed by victims then bullies. The experience of both relational-verbal and physical bullying was associated with the highest risk of self-harm (prevalence rate ratio 4.6, 95% confidence interval [3.15, 6.60]), suicidal ideation or plans (prevalence rate ratio 4.6, 95% confidence interval [3.05, 6.95]; and 4.8, 95% confidence interval [3.01, 7.64], respectively) or suicide attempts (prevalence rate ratio 3.5, 95% confidence interval [1.90, 6.30]). Conclusion: This study presents the first national, population-based estimates of the associations between bullying by peers and mental health outcomes in Australian adolescents. The markedly increased risk of poor mental health outcomes, self-harm and suicidal ideation and behaviours among adolescents who experienced bullying highlights the importance of addressing bullying in school settings.



Bullying, mental health, suicide, adolescent, Australian



Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry


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