Bullying and sexual abuse is associated with binge eating and smoking

Bullying: Being bullied is associated with binge eating and smoking
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People who have suffered bullying or sexual abuse have a lower quality of life and are more likely to display harmful behaviours like smoking dependence and binge eating, a new study from the University of Adelaide has found.

While 60-70 per cent of the bullying or sexual abuse occurred in childhood or adolescence in the participants studied, they were associated with worse outcomes later in life, such as binge eating and smoking.

Bullying and sexual abuse

Dr David Gonzalez-Chica from the University of Adelaide’s Medical School, said: “In Australia almost half of all adults have experienced bullying and 10% have experienced some form of sexual abuse, and these experiences have had long-term effects on harmful behaviours, depression and quality of life.”

Binge eating

The study found that those who suffered these types of abuse were three times more likely to be binge eaters than people who had never experienced them.

Of the people who had two or more outcomes defined as averse by the researchers, the probability they had suffered bullying and/or sexual abuse ranged between 60-85 percent.

The implications of the study

The study was published in BMC Public Health and investigated around 3000 South Australians. The participants took part in face-to-face interviews using self-labelling questions to measure the age of onset, the duration of bullying and sexual assault, and their outcomes during home interviews.  Gonzalez-Chica explained: “Talking about an experience of bullying or sexual abuse in a face-to-face interview is very complicated because of the sensitive nature of these questions. The study showed that it is feasible to use such kind of short but well-structured questions instead of long questionnaires to explore these issues.”

Gonzalez-Chica concludes: “If a doctor finds a patient with multiple harmful behaviours – like smoking dependence and binge eating – who is depressed and has a lower quality of life, they should consider exploring whether these patients were victims of bullying and/or sexual abuse, as according to our results it is very likely they suffered from these forms of abuse.”

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