A previous meta-analysis showed that being bullied during childhood is related to psychosomatic problems, but many other studies have been published since then, including some longitudinal studies. We performed a new meta-analysis to quantify the association between peer victimization and psychosomatic complaints in the school-aged population.
We searched online databases up to April 2012, and bibliographies of retrieved studies and of narrative reviews, for studies that examined the association between being bullied and psychosomatic complaints in children and adolescents. The original search identified 119 nonduplicated studies, of which 30 satisfied the prestated inclusion criteria.
Two separate random effects meta-analyses were performed on 6 longitudinal studies (odds ratio = 2.39, 95% confidence interval, 1.76 to 3.24) and 24 cross-sectional studies (odds ratio = 2.17, 95% confidence interval, 1.91 to 2.46), respectively. Results showed that bullied children and adolescents have a significantly higher risk for psychosomatic problems than non-bullied agemates. In the cross-sectional studies, the magnitude of effect size significantly decreased with the increase of the proportion of female participants in the study sample. No other moderators were statistically significant.
The association between being bullied and psychosomatic problems was confirmed. Given that school bullying is a widespread phenomenon in many countries around the world, the present results indicate that bullying should be considered a significant international public health problem.