Cyberbullying only rarely the sole factor identified in teen suicides

October 20, 2012, American Academy of Pediatrics

Cyberbullying – the use of the Internet, phones or other technologies to repeatedly harass or mistreat peers – is often linked with teen suicide in media reports. However, new research presented on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, shows that the reality is more complex. Most teen suicide victims are bullied both online and in school, and many suicide victims also suffer from depression.

For the abstract, "Cyberbullying and Suicide: A of 41 Cases," researchers searched the Internet for reports of youth suicides where cyberbullying was a reported factor. Information about demographics and the event itself were then collected through searches of online news media and social networks. Finally, descriptive statistics were used to assess the rate of pre-existing mental illness, the co-occurrence of other forms of bullying, and the characteristics of the associated with each suicide case.

The study identified 41 suicide cases (24 female, 17 male, ages 13 to 18) from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. In the study, 24 percent of teens were the victims of homophobic bullying, including the 12 percent of teens identified as homosexual and another 12 percent of teens who were identified as heterosexual or of unknown .

Suicides most frequently occurred in September (15 percent) and January (12 percent) although these higher rates may have occurred by chance. The incidence of reported suicide cases increased over time, with 56 percent occurring from 2003 to 2010, compared to 44 percent from January 2011 through April 2012.

Seventy-eight percent of adolescents who committed suicide were bullied both at school and online, and only 17 percent were targeted online only. A was reported in 32 percent of the teens, and in an additional 15 percent.

"Cyberbullying is a factor in some suicides, but almost always there are other factors such as mental illness or face-to-face bullying," said study author John C. LeBlanc, MD, MSc, FRCPC, FAAP. "Cyberbullying usually occurs in the context of regular bullying."

Cyberbullying occurred through various media, with Formspring and Facebook specifically mentioned in 21 cases. Text or video messaging was noted in 14 cases.

"Certain social media, by virtue of allowing anonymity, may encourage cyberbullying," said Dr. LeBlanc. "It is difficult to prove a cause and effect relationship, but I believe there is little justification for anonymity."

Explore further: Cyberbullying less frequent than traditional bullying, according to international studies

Related Stories

Cyberbullying less frequent than traditional bullying, according to international studies

August 6, 2012
Traditional in-person bullying is far more common than cyberbullying among today's youth and should be the primary focus of prevention programs, according to research findings presented at the American Psychological Association's ...

Cyberbullying may call for new prevention tactics

April 23, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Cyberbullying is different than traditional bullying, and anti-bullying programs need to use specific measures to combat online aggression, a new Canadian study says.

Physical illness hospitalization found to increase suicide risk

July 16, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Hospitalization for physical illness more than doubles the risk of suicide, with approximately one-quarter of suicides attributable to physical illness, according to research published online July 9 in the ...

Recommended for you

Psychiatric disorders share an underlying genetic basis

June 21, 2018
Psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder often run in families. In a new international collaboration, researchers explored the genetic connections between these and other disorders of the brain at ...

One year of school comes with an IQ bump, meta-analysis shows

June 21, 2018
A year of schooling leaves students with new knowledge, and it also equates with a small but noticeable increase to students' IQ, according to a systematic meta-analysis published in Psychological Science, a journal of the ...

Ketamine acts fast to treat depression and its effects last—but how?

June 21, 2018
In contrast to most antidepressant medications, which can take several weeks to reduce depressive symptoms, ketamine—a commonly used veterinary anesthetic—can lift a person out of a deep depression within minutes of its ...

Mindful movement may help lower stress, anxiety

June 21, 2018
Taking a walk may be a good opportunity to mentally review your to-do list, but using the time to instead be more mindful of your breathing and surroundings may help boost your wellbeing, according to researchers.

Brain tingles—first study of its kind reveals physiological benefits of ASMR

June 21, 2018
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) – the relaxing 'brain tingles' experienced by some people in response to specific triggers, such as whispering, tapping and slow hand movements – may have benefits for both ...

New study debunks Dale Carnegie advice to 'put yourself in their shoes'

June 21, 2018
Putting yourself in someone else's shoes and relying on intuition or "gut instinct" isn't an accurate way to determine what they're thinking or feeling," say researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.