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Eur J Public Health. 2012 Feb;22(1):126-30. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckr010. Epub 2011 Mar 7.

Overweight, body image and bullying--an epidemiological study of 11- to 15-years olds.

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  • 1National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark.



The purpose of this study was to examine the association between weight status and exposure to bullying among 11-, 13- and 15-year-old Danish school children. Furthermore, the purpose was to investigate the potentially mediating effect of body image.


Data from the Danish contribution to the international cross-sectional research project Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) 2002 was used. Data were assessed from questionnaires and 4781 students aged 11-, 13- and 15-years old were included in the analyses. Logistic regression was used for the analyses.


The regression analyses showed that overweight and obese students were more exposed to bullying than their normal weight peers. Among boys, odds ratios (ORs) for exposure to bullying were 1.75 (1.18-2.61) in overweight and 1.98 (0.79-4.95) in obese boys compared with normal weight. Among girls, the corresponding ORs were 1.89 (1.25-2.85) in overweight and 2.74 (0.96-7.82) in obese girls. The mediation analyses showed that body image fully mediated the associations between weight status and exposure to bullying in both boys and girls.


This study shows that overweight and obese boys and girls are of higher odds of being exposed to bullying than their normal weight peers. Moreover, this study finds that body image may statistically explain this association between overweight and exposure to bullying. However, the study is cross-sectional, and hypotheses of possibilities for opposite causality are possible.

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