Inside the Life of a Teenager: Bullying, Depression and Psychological Distress

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A study conducted in Canadian high school paints an interesting, and at times surprising, view of the lives of teenagers today.

The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) surveyed Ontario's students from seventh to 12th grade. First administered in 1977, it is the longest-running survey in Canada and one of the longest in the world.

Questions asked ranged from those about gambling to those about cyber-bullying. The cyber-bullying questions were recently added to the survey.

Psychological distress among students was high, with about 34 percent of students reporting it. This number has increased in recent studies since the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) began tracking that information in 1999. Boys reported psychological distress at fewer numbers than girls; 24 percent of boys felt that they fit into that category, as opposed to 42 percent for girls. The percentage for girls feeling psychological distress has increased from 36 percent in 1999.

Girls also were at increased risk for thoughts about and attempts of suicide: 14 percent of girls had thought about it, and 4 percent of girls had attempted it. That rate was double that of boys.

Part of the discrepancies may be related to bullying. Girls and boys alike (29 percent altogether) report being victimized by bullying, but 31 percent of girls report being bullied in school, while 26 percent of boys report the same. More startlingly, nearly twice the amount of girls than boys reported being cyber-bullied: 28 percent versus 15 percent. Perhaps that difference exists because of girls' preference for vicious words over violence in order to victimize people. While the old childhood aphorism still exists ("Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"), this research indicates that may not be the case.

Indeed, Dr. David Wolfe, Director of CAMH's Center for Prevention Science, says that bullying can have long-term mental health effects, manifesting itself often in victims' inability to form healthy relationships and a healthy self-esteem.

Students report a decrease in anti-social behaviors, like theft, vandalism, assault, and the carrying of weapons.

The 2011 survey was conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental.

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