Dr. Matthew Romo, an epidemiology doctoral student, and Dr. Elizabeth Kelvin, a professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy studied the impact of bullying victimization on suicide and other negative health behavior among adolescents in five Latin American countries. The findings were published in the Pan American Journal of Public Health.
The goal of the study was to compare the prevalence of bullying victimization, suicide ideation, suicidal attempts and negative health behaviors, defined as current tobacco use, recent heavy alcohol use, truancy, physical fighting, and unprotected sexual intercourse. The researchers explored both bullying type and frequency.
The study utilized the Global School-based Student Health Surveys from Bolivia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Peru, and Uruguay. The surveys were nationally representative samples of school-going adolescents. The sample included 14,560 adolescents, ages 13 to 15 years old.
The prevalence of any bullying victimization in the past 30 days was 37.8 percent. Bullying victimization was associated with significantly greater odds of suicidal ideation with planning and at least one suicide attempt. An increasing exposure–response effect of increasing days of bullying victimization on suicide outcomes was also observed. Bullying victimization was associated with significantly higher odds of current tobacco use, truancy, physical fighting, and unprotected sexual intercourse.
The research team concluded that the prevalence of bullying victimization varied by country, but its association with suicidal ideation and behavior and negative health behaviors remained relatively consistent. They felt that addressing bullying needs to be a priority in Latin America, and that an integrated approach including mental and physical health promotion is also needed.