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Is a History of School Bullying Victimization Associated With Adult Suicidal Ideation?: A South Australian Population-Based Observational Study

Roeger, Leigh PhD*; Allison, Stephen MBBS, FRANZCP; Korossy–Horwood, Rebecca BSc*; Eckert, Kerena A. MPH, PhD; Goldney, Robert D. MD, FRCPsych

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: October 2010 - Volume 198 - Issue 10 - p 728-733
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181f4aece
Original Articles

The objective of this research was to determine whether a history of school bullying victimization is associated with suicidal ideation in adult life. A random and representative sample of 2907 South Australian adults was surveyed in Autumn, 2008. Respondents were asked “When you were at school, did you experience traumatic bullying by peers that was particularly severe, for example, being frequently targeted or routinely harassed in any way by ‘bullies’?” Depression was determined by the mood module of the PRIME-MD which includes a suicidal ideation question; “In the last 2 weeks, have you had thoughts that you would be better off dead or hurting yourself in some way?” The overall prevalence of suicidal ideation in postschool age respondents was 3.4% (95% confidence interval: 2.8%–4.2%) in 2008. Bullying by peers was recalled by 18.7% (17.2%–20.3%). Respondents with a history of being bullied were approximately 3 times (odds ratio: 3.2) more likely to report suicidal ideation compared with those who did not. The association between being bullied and suicidal ideation remained after controlling for both depression and sociodemographic variables (odds ratio: 2.1). The results from the present research suggest that there is a strong association between a history of childhood bullying victimization and current suicidal ideation that persists across all ages. Bullying prevention programs in schools could hold the potential for longer lasting benefits in this important area of public health.

*Discipline of General Practice, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia; †Department of Psychiatry, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia; and ‡Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia.

The PRIME-MD questions included in the SAHOS are supported by a grant from the Hanson Research Institute, SA Pathology, Adelaide, South Australia. Funding for L.R. and R.K.-H. was provided by the Australian Government's Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development (PHCRED) Strategy supported (to L.R. and R.K.-H.).

Send reprint requests to Leigh Roeger, PhD, Discipline of General Practice, Flinders University, Bedford Park 5042, South Australia, Australia. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.