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


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.