April 26, 2018
2 min read
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Cyberbullying increases risk for self-harm, suicidal behavior

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Youth who are victims and, to a lesser extent, perpetrators of cyberbullying are at higher risk for both self-harm and suicidal behaviors than those with no cyberbullying involvement, study findings showed.

“Perpetrators of cyberbullying have a degree of anonymity not possible in traditional bullying, and the potential exposure and embarrassment of the victim is on a larger scale,” Ann John, FFPH, population psychiatry, suicide and informatics, Swansea University Medical School, U.K., and colleagues wrote. “It is possible to victimize a peer within their own home or elsewhere at any time of day or night, and should they remove themselves from the site, the messages often accumulate. This presents new challenges for individuals, families, schools, professionals, researchers and policy makers.”

Researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis on the current evidence examining the relationship between cyberbullying involvement — either as a victim or perpetrator — and self-harm and suicidal behaviors in children and young adults aged younger than 25 years using data from MEDLINE, Cochrane, and PsycINFO. In total, 33 studies with outcomes relating to self-harm, suicidal behaviors, suicide attempts and suicidal ideation, covering a population of 156,384 youth, were included in the analysis. All data on prevalence rates of cybervictimization for the total study population were examined.

Twenty-five articles encompassing 115,056 participants identified associations between being a victim of cyberbullying and self-harm or suicidal behaviors, or between cyberbullying others and suicidal behaviors. In addition, three other studies encompassing 44,526 participants that assessed cyberbullying, self-harm or suicidal behaviors measures in combination with traditional bullying and mental health problems, showed negative influences, according to John and colleagues.

Meta-analyses revealed youth who experienced cybervictimization were more than twice as likely to self-harm (OR = 2.35; 95% CI, 1.65-3.34), exhibit suicidal behaviors (OR = 2.10; 95% CI, 1.73-2.55), have suicidal thoughts (OR = 2.15; 95% CI, 1.7-2.71) and to attempt suicide (OR = 2.57; 95% CI, 1.69-3.9) compared with nonvictims. Furthermore, perpetrators of cyberbullying were more likely to exhibit suicidal behaviors (OR = 1.21; 95% CI, 1.02-1.44) and to have suicidal thoughts (OR = 1.23; 95% CI, 1.1-1.37) than those who did not cyberbully.

“Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene; and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users,” John said in a press release. “Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying program and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

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