Think it’s cool to be a bully? Think again! Bullies are at an increased risk for anxiety, depression and eating disorders, a new study says.
In this study of 1,420 children, the researchers found that those who bullied others were twice as likely to display symptoms of bulimia, such as binge eating and purging, when compared to children who are not involved in bullying.
“For a long time, there is been this story about bullies that they are a little more hale and hearty,” said lead author William Copeland from Duke University School of Medicine in US.
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“Maybe they are good at manipulating social situations or getting out of trouble, but in this one area it seems that is not the case at all,” Copeland stated.
(Also read: Bullies have high self-esteem, low depression rates)
Maybe teasing others may sensitise them to their own body image issues, or afterward, they have regret for their actions that results in these symptoms like binge eating followed by purging or excess exercise, Copeland explained.
The researchers found that children who were both bullies and victims had the highest prevalence of anorexia symptoms and also the highest prevalence of binge eating and vomiting as a way to maintain their weight.
But the impact of bullying behaviour on those who were bullies was also significant, with 30.8% of bullies having symptoms of bulimia compared to 17.6% of children not involved in bullying.
All of these behaviours can have devastating effects on the long-term health of children, Cynthia Bulik from University of North Carolina School of Medicine in US pointed out.
“The bullies’ own body dissatisfaction could fuel their taunting of others. Our findings tell us to raise our vigilance for eating disorders in anyone involved in bullying exchanges — regardless of whether they are the aggressor, the victim, or both,” Bulik said.
The findings will be published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders.