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Link to Depression Differs for Cyber, Traditional Bullying

Cyber bullying victims have higher depression levels than bully-victims, bullies

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- The adolescent victims of cyber bullying report higher levels of depression than do the bullies themselves or bully-victims, but this is not the case with traditional forms of bullying, according to a study published online Sept. 22 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Jing Wang, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children 2005 Survey that was administered to a nationally-representative sample of 7,313 students in grades six to 10. The researchers compared the incidence of depression among children who were bullies, victims, or bully-victims by the traditional definitions (physical, verbal, and relational bullying) and cyber bullying.

The investigators found the prevalence of physical, verbal, relational, and cyber bullying to be 21.2, 53.7, 51.6, and 13.8 percent, respectively. Depression was associated with all four forms of bullying, but the victims of cyber bullying reported higher depression than did the bullies or bully-victims, a result the researchers did not find with the traditional forms of bullying. For the three traditional types of bullying, frequently-involved victims and bully-victims had significantly higher depression levels than occasionally-involved victims and bully-victims. For cyber bullying, however, differences were found between occasional and frequent victims only.

"Notably, cyber victims reported higher depression than bullies or bully-victims, which was not found in any other form of bullying. This may be explained by some distinct characteristics of cyber bullying. For example, unlike traditional victims, cyber victims may experience an anonymous attacker who instantly disperses fabricated photos throughout a large social network; as such, cyber victims may be more likely to feel isolated, dehumanized or helpless at the time of the attack," the authors write.

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