Obese kids are bigger targets for bullies, study finds


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As if obese kids didn’t have enough to worry about – increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – researchers from the University of Michigan have documented another concern: being picked on by bullies.

Apparently this isn’t a brand-new area of research. One study warned that bullying “may hinder the short- and long-term social and psychological development of overweight and obese youth,” and another suggested it may help explain why overweight children have more school absences than their slimmer peers. But prior studies did not control for social skills, academic achievement, socioeconomic status or other demographic factors, according to the the researchers.


The new study is based on 821 elementary school students from around the country who were tracked as part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. The survey data include incidences of bullying reported by children, mothers and teachers.

The researchers found that obese children were 63% more likely to be victims of bullies in the third, fifth and sixth grades. In fact, the risk for obese kids (versus healthy-weight kids) was greater than the risk for boys (versus girls), according to the study.

With 17% of 6- to 11-year-olds considered obese, that could translate into a lot of extra bullying.

The findings will appear in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.

-- Karen Kaplan