Schoolchildren with food allergies were nearly twice as likely to be bullied compared with students without food allergies, according to recent study results.
Researchers studied 240 children (median age, 11 years; 61% boys), including 120 recruited from the Referral Centre for Food Allergy Diagnosis and Treatment, Veneto, Italy, who had developed food allergy before they were aged 3 years and had not experienced concomitant nonallergic diseases. The other 120 sex- and age-matched participants were recruited from family physician clinics and had no history of allergy or other disease.
Frequency of being bullied by classmates during the prior 2 months was assessed. Physical, verbal, social and relational bullying were measured. A Likert scale ranging from 1 (it never happened) to 5 (several times a week) was used. All participants completed a survey based on the Italian version of the Olweus bully/victim questionnaire and answered questions on general bullying. Patients with allergies also answered food allergy-related bullying questions. The risk for bullying victimization between the allergic and healthy cohorts was compared by Mantel-Haenszel test.
Sixty percent of children with allergies reported being bullied in the previous 2 months, compared with 31.7% of healthy controls. Patients with food allergies had almost twice the probability of being bullied (RR=1.89; 95% CI, 1.4-2.56). There were 28.5% of patients with food allergies and 8.3% of healthy participants who replied they were bullied sometimes or more often. Regarding food-allergy related bullying, 24.2% of patients reported being bullied at least once and 5.8% answered sometimes or more often, with less frequency than general bullying (P<.001).
There was a lower probability of being attacked because of food allergy among older patients (OR=0.73; 95% CI, 0.58-0.91). Girls had a greater probability of being intentionally excluded compared with boys (OR=4.55; 95% CI, 1.75-11.85).
“This is the first work that compares students with food allergy to a healthy control group, giving a real dimension of the problem,” the researchers reported. “Food-allergic patients should be included in the category of students at high risk of bullying.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.