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Population Health

Bullying refers to the act of harming, coercing or intimidating someone who one perceives as weak or vulnerable. Self-esteem involves one's worth or sense of self-respect. The relationship between the 2 concepts is an old one but is relevant even today. Though bullies are perceived to have high self-confidence, there is ample evidence which suggests that most bullies are victims of low self-esteem themselves. Bullies themselves usually show antisocial forms of behaviour and have more psychological and physical problems than their peers. They have an increased risk of depression and suicidal ideation.

A form of bullying known as cyberbullying is growing in popularity. Between 20% to 40% of adolescents and school children have been victims of cyberbullying (Tokunaga, 2010). Appearance related bullying (due to height, weight, physical features) is another form of bullying which is prevalent among young people (Mooney, Cresser & Blatchford, 1991).

Self-esteem is a crucial aspect of one's personality. It is how one views and accepts oneself. There appears to be a strong connection between self-esteem and health. If someone suffers from low self-esteem, they tend to experience poor mental health, often exhibiting symptoms of illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Low self-esteem may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking, smoking and consumption of drugs. As a result, such individuals have a negligent and unfavourable attitude towards their overall health (both physical and mental). Australian studies on adolescent coping have indicated that strategies like worrying and self-blame (as a coping mechanism due to bullying) have been linked to adverse outcomes such as depression (Frydenberg and Lewis, 1999).

Upon observing the connection between bullying, self-esteem and health, we can conclude that bullying does indirectly affect one's health and the attitudes and beliefs surrounding it. Bullying leads to the development of a low sense of self, which in turn leads to negligence of health and unhealthy lifestyle practices.

References for Impact of Bullying on Self Esteem and Health

Arseneault, L. (2017). The long-term impact of bullying victimization on mental health. World Psychiatry, 16(1), 27–28. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20399

Brito, C. C., & Oliveira, M. T. (2013). Bullying and self-esteem in adolescents from public schools. Jornal de Pediatria (Versão Em Português), 89(6), 601–607. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpedp.2013.04.002

Fanti, K. A., & Henrich, C. C. (2014). Effects of Self-Esteem and Narcissism on Bullying and Victimization During Early Adolescence. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 35(1), 5–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431613519498

Ford, R., King, T., Priest, N., & Kavanagh, A. (2017). Bullying and mental health and suicidal behaviour among 14- to 15-year-olds in a representative sample of Australian children. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 51(9), 897–908. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867417700275

Jadambaa, A., Thomas, H. J., Scott, J. G., Graves, N., Brain, D., & Pacella, R. (2019). Prevalence of traditional bullying and cyberbullying among children and adolescents in Australia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 53(9), 878–888. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867419846393

Lodge, J., & Feldman, S. S. (2007a). Avoidant coping as a mediator between appearance-related victimization and self-esteem in young Australian adolescents. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 25(4), 633–642. https://doi.org/10.1348/026151007x185310

O’Moore, M., & Kirkham, C. (2001). Self-esteem and its relationship to bullying behaviour. Aggressive Behavior, 27(4), 269–283. https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.1010

Wilkins-Shurmer, A., O’Callaghan, M., Najman, J., Bor, W., Williams, G., & Anderson, M. (2003). Association of bullying with adolescent health-related quality of life. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 39(6), 436–441. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1754.2003.00184.x

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