Background Bullying, a type of intentional injury and a major health concern among children and adolescents worldwide, leads to adverse physical and psychosocial outcomes. Estimates on its burden and associated factors are sparse in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR).
Objectives To assess the prevalence of bullying victimization and identify its significant correlates in school students in the EMR countries.
Methods This study analyzed the Global School Health Survey (GSHS) data of 17 EMR countries. The GSHS is a multi-stage nationally representative survey that collects information on risk behaviors including bullying among 11–16 years old school students. Study variables included demographic characteristics, bullying victimization, methods of bullying, number of close friends, sleep disturbance, loneliness, feelings of sadness, self-reported body mass index (BMI) and use of tobacco products. Weighted analyses were performed to estimate the prevalence and correlates of bullying victimization.
Findings The overall age-sex adjusted prevalence of bullying victimization was 45% (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 43% to 48%). The prevalence ranged from 24% in the UAE to 70% in Egypt. Bullying victimization was higher in boys (47% [95% CI: 43% to 51%]) than girls (44% [95% CI: 39% to 49%]) and decreased with age. Common forms of bullying were kicking, pushing and shoving (9%), making fun of because of race or color (6%) and making fun through sexual jokes/gestures (5%). Bullied victims were more likely to report lower BMI, tobacco use, feelings of sadness and loneliness as well as sleep disturbance.
Conclusions The prevalence of bullying is alarmingly high in the EMR particularly in boys and younger students. Physical bullying is the most common form of victimization. Use of tobacco products, being underweight and mood and sleep disturbances were identified as significant correlates of bullying. These findings suggest the need for more research on bullying and implementation of individual, family and school based anti-bullying interventions in the region.