The Sad Link Between Bullying & Obesity
We all remember the horror of P.E. class. Being the last one picked for sports, getting teased for not being able to run, jump or climb as well as the other kids, having to change in front of everyone; it was all pretty horrible.
Now new research shows that kids who are bullied during P.E. classes or other physical activities like team sports are less likely to participate in physical activity a year later.
The study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology found that overweight or obese children who are teased during physical activity have a lower perceived health-related quality of life a year later. It was also found that kids at a healthy weight who experience bullying were less likely to exercise a year after the bullying took place.
“Our finding that this applies to normal-weight kids also was novel,” Chad Jensen, psychology professor and lead author of the study, said.
Studies had already linked bullying to decreased physical activity for obese or overweight children, but had not looked at the effects of bullying on other kids.
Students who took part in this study were 4th and 5th graders from six elementary schools in the Midwest. They were asked to complete three surveys at the beginning of the study, and then again a year later.
“Overweight kids who were teased reported poorer functional ability across domains (physical, social, academic and physical,” Jensen said. “If we can help them to have better perception of their physical and social skills, then physical activity may increase and health-related quality is likely to improve.”
Questions from the surveys asked about being made fun of when playing sports or exercising, not being chosen to be on a sports team or others looking or acting upset when the child was placed on the team, and being called insulting names when playing sports or exercising.
Though kids are often taught that “chattering” or “heckling” others during physical activity and sports is alright, this study shows that such bullying can be detrimental.
Jensen hopes that better bullying awareness will curb any effect it can have on children and their physical activity.
“We hope our study will raise awareness that educators should consider bullying prevention during physical education and free play (recess) when kids may be discouraged from being physically active because of teasing experiences.”