A new global study has found teens who are bullied at school are much more likely to experience sleep loss.
Dr Yaqoot Fatima and Assoc Prof Santosh Jatrana from JCU’s Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health were part of a team that analysed studies of more than 280,000 adolescents between 13 and 17 years old from more than 90 countries.
“Healthy sleep is particularly important for adolescents who, in that stage of life, are experiencing a range of acute developmental, educational, lifestyle and social demands. Sleep loss can impact medical and psychological health,” said Dr Fatima.
The researchers analysed data from the Global School-based Student Health Survey conducted between 2003 and 2017.
“Our results suggest that globally 1 in 3 adolescents is experiencing moderate sleep loss and 1 in 10 is experiencing severe sleep loss.
“Adolescents who experienced bullying for three days or more in the past 30 days were 1.65 and 2.65 times more likely to experience moderate and severe sleep loss, respectively,” said the lead author Mr. Md. Mehedi Hasan from the Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Queensland.
He said irrespective of sex, the association between bullying victimisation and sleep loss was significant in all regions, income groups, and in all but a few countries.
“Unfortunately, bullying at school is common across the globe, with more than 30 per cent of school-going adolescents being bullied by their peers,” said Dr Fatima.
She said as far as the researchers knew, this was the first large-scale, multinational, and comprehensive study to examine the prevalence of sleep loss in adolescents, and the association between bullying victimisation and sleep loss, across the globe.
“It can be a vicious circle, with bullying increasing stress and anxiety and affecting sleep, and poor sleep decreasing social-emotional resilience and increasing reactivity to negative social interactions – which may exacerbate the effects of bullying,” said Assoc Prof Jatrana.
She said sleep loss is well-established as both a symptom and precursor of poor mental health but, on the other hand, improving the quantity and quality of sleep could be effective in reducing the risk and severity of adolescent mental health issues, obesity, and other comorbidities.
“Stopping bullying in schools and coincidentally improving sleep quality could be a cost-effective intervention with multiple positive outcomes – including an increase in school attendance, improved academic performance, improved relationships with peers, and reduced likelihood of victimisation and conflict,” said Dr Fatima.
Other researchers on the team included Prof Simon Smith and Assoc Prof Abdullah Al Mamun from the Institute for Social Science Research, University of Queensland and Mr. Md. Tariqujjaman from the Department of Statistics, University of Dhaka.