Traditional and Cyberbullying Victimization as Correlates of Psychosocial Distress and Barriers to a Healthy Lifestyle Among Severely Obese Adolescents –

A Matched Case-Control Study on Prevalence and Results From a Cross-Sectional Study

Ann DeSmet; Benedicte Deforche; Anne Hublet; Ann Tanghe; Evi Stremersch; Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij


BMC Public Health. 2014;14(224) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Obese youth are at increased risk for peer victimization, which may heighten their risk of psychosocial problems and physical activity avoidance, and lower the effectiveness of professional and lifestyle weight-loss initiatives. Little is known about obese adolescents' risk for victimization from cyber-bullying and how this relates to psychosocial functioning and healthy lifestyle barriers. The purpose of the study was to assess traditional and cyber-victimization among adolescents with severe obesity and its relation to psychosocial distress and barriers to healthy lifestyles.

Methods: A sample of 102 obese adolescents (mean age = 15.32 ±1.71) in residential treatment was matched with 102 normal-weight youngsters from the Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) study (mean age = 15.30 ±1.73).

Results: Adolescents with obesity were significantly more often cyber-victimized than normal-weight peers. Obese youth victimized by traditional bullying experienced lower quality of life, lower motivation for physical activity and higher avoidance and emotional coping towards healthy lifestyles than those non-victimized. Obese cyber-victims experienced significantly higher suicidal ideation.

Conclusions: Traditional and cyber-victimization may hinder treatment effectiveness and healthy lifestyle change in adolescents with obesity. Health professionals should pro-actively address peer victimization and psychosocial functioning during multidisciplinary obesity treatment. Schools could contribute to a better physical and psychosocial health of obese youth by implementing multi-behavioral health-promotion programs.