Children Bullied Over Health Issues
Two studies published recently in Pediatrics show that bullying over health issues is common among schoolchildren, and that those who suffer from food allergies or are seeking treatment for obesity are most likely to be targeted.
One study reports that about one-third of children with food allergies are harassed specifically due to their food allergies and are threatened by bullies with the offending allergen. Eyal Shemesh, MD, of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues analyzed surveys conducted on 251 children with established food allergy, who were aged 8 to 17, and their parents. They were being treated at a single allergy clinic under the Enhancing, Managing, and Promoting Well-Being and Resiliency program. They found that 80% of the bullies were the kids’ classmates and that most bullying episodes (60%) occurred in school. These children were teased (42%), forced to touch allergen (12%) or had food thrown at them (10%).
A second study reports that 64% of teens participating at weight-loss camps were also victims of bullying by schoolmates, friends, teachers, coaches, and parents too. Rebecca Puhl, PhD, of Yale University, and her colleagues surveyed 361 kids, ages 14 to 18, who sought treatment in two national weight-loss camps. They found that victimization was weight-based, and bullying rose with increasing weight. Obese and overweight kids were likely to be teased (up to 88%), subjected to relational victimization (80%), cyberbullying (60%), and physical aggression (up to 61%). Children were also likely to be bullied in school even after they lost weight.
Experts believe that pediatricians and other clinicians must get involved in teaching parents how to recognize clues that their children are being bullied because of their immediate and long-term physical and emotional effects.
Phend, C. Kids with Health Issues Targeted for Bullying. MedPage Today.