Samoan adolescents world's most bullied: study

Samoa has the highest rates of bullying among adolescent males and females of any country in the world, a new study has found. 

A total of 79 per cent of Samoan males and 70 per cent of females had experienced bullying, the research, published in EClinicalMedicine, an academic outlet affiliated with the highly prestigious journal the Lancet, has found. 

That made Samoan adolescents the most victimised by bullying of any national-level cohort studied. Young people in a total of 83 countries were studied, with prevalence of bullying falling to as low as 7 per cent in Tajikistan. 

The report is titled: "Global variation in the prevalence of bullying victimisation amongst adolescents: role of peer and parental supports." It was published on February 17 after three to five months' compilation.

The study aimed to estimate the prevalence of bullying victimisation (and peer and parental support) among adolescents across low-income to high-income countries.

Tuhin Biswas, the study's lead author told the Samoa Observer that bullying victimisation is a global public health problem that has been predominantly studied in high income countries.

“The World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) has identified that the adolescent age group is a vulnerable population and they recommended that we should take care of the adolescents,” he said.

The data for the research was drawn from the Global School-based Student Health Survey of school children aged 12-17 years, between 2003 and 2015, in 83 low-income to high-income countries across six W.H.O. regions.

The lead author added that they estimated the weighted prevalence of bullying victimisation at the national, regional and global levels. 

“There are some issues that can be responsible for Samoa having the highest prevalence of bullying victimisation, because we see the status of a country’s [Gross Domestic Product] and the country’s education expenditure it is very low compared to other countries.

“Some school level information we see that students are of low strength and also some family information indicate that at the family level there is a fear factor and the peer and parent support is very low.

“I recommended in the study that peer and parental support and in terms of close friends which are the most effective factors in reducing bullying victimisation.”

Mr. Biswas added that for strong recommendations there should be development on additional in-depth study on factors that could reduce bullying victimisation, scientific studies before developing some sort of intervention.

“We still have a long way to go before we implement interventions," he said. 

The authors used statistical models to estimate the adjusted association of age, gender, socio-economic status, parental support and peer support, and country level factors on the impact of bullying. 

Of the 317,869 adolescents studied, 151,036 (48%) were males, and 166,833 (52%) females.

“The pooled prevalence of bullying victimisation on one or more days in the past 30 days amongst adolescents aged 12–17 years was 30·5% (95% CI: 30·2–31·0%),” read the report.

The study also mentioned that the highest prevalence was observed in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (45·1%, 44·3–46·0%) and African region (43·5%, 43·0–44·3%), and the lowest in Europe (8·4%, 8·0–9·0%). 

“Bullying victimisation was associated with male gender [...], below average socio-economic status [...], and younger age," the researchers concluded. 

“Higher levels of peer support ..., higher levels of parental support (e.g., understanding children's problems ... and knowing the importance of free time spent with children ... were significantly associated with a reduced risk of bullying victimisation.”

Mr. Biswas said that bullying victimisation is prevalent amongst adolescents globally, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean and African regions.

He added that parental and peer supports are protective factors against bullying victimisation. 

Interventions from family and peers can make young people feel more connected and counteract the effects of bullying, researchers found. 

“This study shows that although there is a high variation in the prevalence of bullying victimisation, a large proportion of adolescents in all countries irrespective of income status are exposed," Mr. Biswas said. 

“In every country, those adolescents with lower levels of peer support and parental support were more likely to report experiencing bullying victimisation.

“There is an urgent need to develop culturally appropriate interventions that increase parental support and foster development of peer supports to reduce the global prevalence of bullying. The findings of this study can help to inform such prevention programmes.”

The authors of the report are: Tuhin Biswas, James G. Scott, Kerim Munir, Hannah J. Thomas, M. Mamun Huda, Md. Mehedi Hasan, Tim David de Vries, Janeen Baxter, and Abdullah A. Mamun.

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