The incidence of bullying is high among adolescents. Adolescents who were victims of bullying have a higher risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior than adolescents who were non-victims. However, research on suicide and both traditional and cyber bullying was limited in China. Therefore, this study examined the associations between Chinese adolescents who were the victims of traditional and cyber bullying and the prevalence of suicidal ideation, self-harm and suicide attempts.
This was a population-based study of 2647 students (51.2% girls) with a mean age of 13.6 ± 1.1 years from 10 junior high schools in Shantou, China. Information on bullying victimization, suicidal ideation, self-harm and suicide attempts were collected using a self-administered questionnaire and the psychopathology of the students was assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The associations were examined with multinomial logistic regression, adjusted for covariates.
Traditional bullying victimization was reported by 16.7% of the adolescents, cyber bullying victimization by 9.0% and both by 3.5%. The prevalence of suicidal ideation was 23.5%, self-harm was 6.2% and suicide attempts was 4.2%. Psychopathology symptoms were risk factors for suicide ideation only, ideation plus self-harm, self-harm only and suicide attempts. Victims of both traditional and cyber bullying had the highest risk of suicidal ideation only, ideation plus self-harm and suicide attempts, compared to those reporting one form of bullying. Victims of cyber bullying only had the second highest risk of suicidal ideation only and suicidal ideation plus self-harm compared to non-victims.
Adolescents who were victims of both traditional and cyber bullying had greater risks of adverse outcomes of suicidal ideation only, suicidal ideation plus self-harm and suicide attempts. The results of the current study suggest that those exposed to both forms of bullying should be routinely screened for suicidal risk. In addition, school-based anti-bully interventions should also target cyber bullying.