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Bullied Kids More Likely to Self-Harm

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Children who are bullied are more likely to deliberately hurt themselves, a new study shows.

Kids between the ages of 5 and 12 who were frequently bullied were three times more likely to harm themselves, compared with children who weren't bullied, according to the study.

"Prevention of non-suicidal self injury in young adolescents should focus on helping bullied children to cope more appropriately with their distress," the authors wrote in their conclusion.

The researchers at King's College London looked at more than 1,000 pairs of twins, at ages 5, 7, 10 and 12. The children were interviewed, and so were their mothers (separately), and asked whether each child had been bullied, and if they had ever deliberately harmed themselves.

Of the 237 children who were victims of frequent bullying, 18 (8 percent) reported harming themselves, whereas 44 (2 percent) of the 1,904 children who had not been bullied reported harming themselves. The link was slightly stronger among girls, the researchers noted.

Kids who had experienced adversity in their family life, such as poverty or a parent with a mental illness, and kids who had been maltreated were at the greatest risk for self-harm, the study showed.

Previous studies have linked being bullied with behavioral problems during adolescence, but few have looked at whether bullying increases the risk of self-harm, the researchers said.

Programs aimed at preventing bullying are needed, and so are efforts to help children cope with the emotional distress of being bullied, the researchers said.

The findings were published Thursday (April 26) in the journal BMJ.

Pass it on: Kids who are victims of bullying are at a greater risk of hurting themselves.

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