Obese children still more likely to be bullied: study

Tue May 4, 2010 6:55am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Although the number of overweight children is rising, a U.S. study has found that obese children in grades 3 through 6 are still more likely to be bullied by thinner classmates even if they are popular or smart.

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that obese children are picked on more, regardless of gender, race, social skills, or academic achievement.

Dr. Julie C. Lumeng, who led the study, said she found the study slightly surprising and "disturbing."

"Unlike in the 1980s so many kids are obese now. In some schools, half the class may be overweight ... so I really thought that maybe being obese really doesn't result in being bullied as much anymore. I was wrong," she told Reuters Health.

The study involved 821 American boys and girls aged 8 to 11. In third grade, 17 percent of the children were obese and 15 percent were overweight.

A quarter of the children reported being bullied, although their mothers said about 45 percent of them were bullied.

According to the researchers, the odds of being bullied were 63 percent higher for an obese child compared to a healthy-weight peer.

They found that the higher odds of being bullied among obese children were "equally strong" for boys and girls, white and non-white children, children from poor and more well-to-do families and across all types of schools in all 10 study cities.

Lumeng also thought she'd find protective factors, like having good social skills and doing well in school.   Continued...

<p>Pedestrians wait to walk across a street near Times Square in New York August 28, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>