Weight-based bullying linked to increased adolescent alcohol, marijuana use
Adolescents who are bullied about their weight or body shape may be more likely to use alcohol or marijuana than those who are not bullied, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
The link between appearance-related teasing and substance use was strongest among overweight girls, raising special concerns about this group.
“This type of bullying is incredibly common and has many negative effects for adolescents,” said lead study author Melanie Klinck, BA, a clinical research assistant at the University of Connecticut. “The combination of appearance-related teasing and the increased sensitivity to body image during adolescence may create a heightened risk for substance use.”
“These findings raise larger issues about how society places too much emphasis on beauty and body image for girls and women and the damaging effects that may result,” said Christine McCauley Ohannessian, PhD, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, as well as director of the Center for Behavioral Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and a study co-author.
“Schools and communities should specifically address appearance-related teasing in anti-bullying policies and substance-use interventions,” she said. “Parents particularly have a role to play in addressing this issue. There is some startling research showing that some of the most hurtful examples of weight-based teasing come from parents or siblings, so families should be kind when they discuss the weight of their children.”
American Psychological Association. “Weight-based bullying linked to increased adolescent alcohol, marijuana use: Overweight girls most likely to report being bullied, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200225154338.htm>.