Is victimization from bullying associated with medicine use among adolescents? A nationally representative cross-sectional survey in Denmark.
The goal was to examine whether being a victim of bullying was associated with medicine use, taking into account the increased prevalence of physical and psychological symptoms. The study population included all students in grades 5, 7, and 9 (mean ages: 11.6, 13.6, and 15.6 years, respectively) in a random sample of schools in Denmark (participation rate: 88.5%; N = 5205). The students reported health problems, medicine use, bullying, and a range of psychosocial conditions in an anonymous standardized questionnaire. The outcome measure was self-reported medicine use for headache, stomachache, difficulties in getting to sleep, and nervousness. The determinant was frequency of exposure to bullying, measured with 1 item. In multivariate models adjusted for age and social class, we found that adolescent victims of bullying used medicine for pains and psychological problems more often than did adolescents who were not bullied. The increased odds of using medicine were not explained by the higher prevalence of symptoms among the bullied children. We found victimization from bullying to be associated with medicine use, even when we controlled for the higher prevalence of symptoms among bullied victims. The medications that adolescents use can have adverse effects, in addition to the potentially health-damaging effects of bullying. Policy makers, health care professionals, and school staff should be aware that the adolescent victims of bullying are prone to excess use of medicine, and preventive actions should be taken to decrease the level of bullying as well as the use of medicine among adolescents.