The research from of the University of Minnesota recognizes bullying as a clear public health issue, calling for more preventative research and action.
In their analysis, the researchers utilized data from the Minnesota Student Survey, which looked at incidences of social and verbal bullying. The survey did not ask about physical or electronic bullying.
Analysis showed over half of students in grades 6, 9, and 12 reported being involved in bullying, either as the victim or the bully. Involvement in bullying was also strongly linked to suicidal ideation or attempts.
"Given that many students are involved in bullying, and bullying involvement is strongly associated with thinking about or attempting suicide, we wanted to find ways to identify who was most at risk for these negative outcomes, and how we can foster protection for them," said Iris Borowsky, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics in the University of Minnesota Medical School.
The analysis showed clear risk factors for suicidal thinking and behavior among young people involved in bullying. Among them: self injury, such as cutting, emotional distress, running away, and previous trauma in childhood, such as physical or sexual abuse.
However, there were also experiences that created a protective environment for these young people. Researchers identified strong, positive parental connections as the most powerful protective factor against suicidal ideation and attempt.
"Perceived caring from parents, friends, and other adults in your community, including relatives and religious leaders, were all significant protective factors for these young people at high risk for suicidality," said Borowsky.
And for victims of bullying, liking school was also protective.
The finding is being published in a special supplemental issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.