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5 Ways Bullying Can Be Damaging to Kids’ Physical Health

May 12, 2016 05:05 AM EDT

Bullying can lead to serious health problems, and it's time to recognize this, says the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in a report released just recently.

"We need to understand that this is a public health problem faced by a third of our children," said Dr. Frederick Rivara, committee chairman who helped compiled the report.

Unfortunately, zero-tolerance policies in schools wherein students are automatically suspended on the grounds of bullying, are no longer effective in reducing cases of bullying. Researchers claim that schools should instead focus on preventive intervention policies and programs. Studies are still being conducted on which programs will work best.

Also, the committee believed that zero-tolerance policies may lead to underreporting of bullying as suspensions are perceived to be too punitive.

Effects on child's health

Apart from depression and anxiety, which eventually leads to alcohol and drug abuse, the damaging effects of bullying can also be observed physically in children and teenagers. Victims of bullying often have difficulty in sleeping, headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

Experts also noticed a change in the victim's stress response system, where cognitive functions and self-regulating emotions are affected. Researchers also noted that children who are bullied, as well as those who bully others, are more likely to attempt suicide. 

This does not limit the effect on victims alone. Bullies themselves are more likely to get depressed, are prone to poor psychological and social outcomes, and are more likely to participate in risky activities.

According to the report, bullying is likely to affect between 18% to 31% of kids. Cyberbullying cases are also on the rise, affecting about 7% to 15% of young people.

From zero-tolerance policies, the committee encourages schools to shift to Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports or PBIS, which has successfully helped more than 20,000 schools. The PBIS programs have reduced bullying cases, improved discipline and academic performance and created a healthier climate at schools, the committee said.   

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