Bullying is many things: teasing, name-calling, stereotyping, fighting, exclusion, spreading rumors, public shaming and aggressive intimidation. It can be in real life (IRL) or online.
During the 2017-18 school year, 7 in 50 public high school students across California said they’d experienced bullying or harassment because of their race, ethnicity or national origin over the previous 12 months, a U.S. News & World Report analysis found.
The analysis used data from the California Healthy Kids Survey, an anonymous survey of school safety and student wellness managed by the state’s education department and administered at grades five, seven, nine and 11.
About 7% of students across the state said they experienced bias-related bullying based on their religion, while 6% reported the same based on their actual or perceived immigrant status, according to the analysis.
The report also showed that students who said they’d been bullied because of their race, ethnicity or nationality were twice as likely to have smoked cigarettes, and their drinking rates were higher: Four out of 10 bullied students used alcohol within the previous 12 months, compared with 3 out of 10 non-bullied students.
The analysis aligns with findings from a 2018 survey, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, of more than 2,500 teens. Concerns about increasing discrimination were associated with higher frequency of substance use, a greater variety of substances used, 11% higher odds of depression and 12% greater odds of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, the survey indicated.
If the present is painful, the future also does not bode well for bullied students. Teens bullied by their peers for any reason have worse long-term mental health effects than kids mistreated by adults, a study published in 2015 found. The research showed that bullied children are more likely to develop anxiety, depression and consider self-harm and suicide later in life.
Additionally, a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine described bullying as a serious public health issue. Beyond causing depression and anxiety and leading to alcohol and drug abuse that carries into adulthood, the harmful effects of bullying manifest themselves physically in kids and teens by disrupting their sleep and causing gastrointestinal issues and headaches.
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And kids bullied their entire school career have declining test scores, a growing dislike of school and failing confidence in their abilities, a separate study found.
However, bullies themselves are also suffering, says the National Academies. They have higher rates of depression than those who are neither bullied nor bullies.