Kids with Health Issues Targeted for Bullying

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Puhl's study included 361 kids, ages 14 to 18, surveyed online while at two national weight-loss camps.

Notably, 34% of the respondents were in the normal weight range, while 24% were overweight and 40% were obese.

The large proportion of healthy-weight kids was unexpected, but "program administrators confirmed that a portion of enrollees had experienced significant weight loss and returned to camp for support with weight-loss maintenance."

The likelihood of weight-based victimization rose with weight, with odds ratios of 8.7 for overweight and 11.7 for obese kids, although those of a normal weight after weight-loss treatment still were at some risk.

The most common form was verbal teasing (75% to 88%), followed by relational victimization (74% to 82%), cyberbullying (59% to 61%), and physical aggression (33% to 61%).

The most common perpetrators were:

Peers: 92% Friends: 70% Physical education teachers or sport coaches: 42% Parents: 37% Teachers: 27%

While acknowledging that some of the adults may have been well-meaning, the researchers pointed out that this can still be extremely damaging.

"For those youth who are targets of weight-based victimization at school and at home, healthcare providers may be among their only remaining allies," they noted.

"Thus, it can be especially helpful for providers to promote adaptive coping strategies (e.g., positive self-talk, social support, problem-focused coping) during patient visits with youth who are targets of weight-based victimization."

Both groups of researchers acknowledged the limitation of self-reported data without independent verification or a control group and that their sample populations may not have been representative of the general population.

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