Although various studies have given clear evidence that school bullying may lead to psychosomatic health issues, other studies refuted the results. Now, Italian researchers confirm that being bullied at school leads to psychosomatic problems. Although the results of their research published in Pediatrics covered the usual ground, they also wandered into some surprising new territory as well.

Girl Benefits

To quantify the association between psychosomatic complaints and peer victimization, the researchers performed analysis of various studies published since April 2012. After retrieving 119 studies, the researchers next identified those that specifically examined the association between being bullied and psychosomatic complaints in children and adolescents. They found 30 which satisfied their inclusion criteria. Finally, the researchers performed two separate meta-analyses on the six longitudinal studies and 24 cross-sectional studies, respectively.

The bullied children and teens showed a significantly higher risk for psychosomatic problems than those who were not bullied. Yet, among the cross-sectional studies, the researchers discovered an interesting and unforeseen ‘protective’ factor. The magnitude of psychosomatic effects decreased significantly in study samples where there were proportionately more female participants. Score one for girls!

“Given that school bullying is a widespread phenomenon in many countries around the world, the present results indicate that bullying should be considered a significant international public health problem,” the authors wrote in their study. Unfortunately, bullying does not necessarily end with school. For adults in the workplace, bullying may also become an issue that causes pain and difficulties.

Adult Bullying

Seeking to test the hypothesis that the risk of experiencing workplace bullying might be greater for contract employees as compared to permanent or ongoing employees, another set of researchers conducted a telephone survey in South Australia in 2009. Employment arrangements were classified into four categories: permanent, casual, fixed-term, and self-employed.

A total of 174 respondents (about 15 percent) of the respondents reported workplace victimization. Although risk of workplace bullying did not vary significantly by sex, age, or even job tenure, it was higher in professional occupations as well as among employees with a university education. Another category of employees who were more likely to be bullied were those who had separated, divorced, or had become widowed; their odds of being victimized at work were higher than either never-married or married (including common-law marriages) colleagues.

The most surprising result of all? “Contrary to expectation, workplace bullying was more often reported by permanent than casual employees,” the authors wrote in their paper. Apparently, the much idealized 'permanent position' may have at least one downside.

Sources: Gini G, Pozzoli T. Bullied Children and Psychosomatic Problems: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics. 2013.

Keuskamp D, Ziersch AM, Baum FE, Lamontagne AD. Workplace bullying a risk for permanent employees. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2012.