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Overweight Teenagers Bullied Often at School

Update Date: Dec 27, 2012 04:56 AM EST

A recent survey of adolescents in weight-loss programs has revealed that many overweight teenagers get teased or bullied.

Of the participants, apparently 64 percent were bullied or teased and while most of the bullying came from peers, some of them even reported bullying from parents, teachers and coaches.

"Kids who are clinically obese are experiencing teasing and bullying, not just at school but at home. That means they have few sources of support or allies," survey author Rebecca Puhl was quoted as saying by Health Day.

However, the report says that the study has certain limitations; like the survey has been conducted among overweight children and children with normal weight have been excluded. Hence, it is not clearly understood if this problem persists only among overweight children or if other children are also as likely to get bullied. Children who are extremely skinny could also be bullied because of their weight.

Another complication is that not all the teenagers who were a part of the study were heavier than normal. The participants also included children who were previously overweight and were attending the weight-loss camps to get support to remain at a healthier weight, the report said.

"Weight-based bullying is often absent from the discussion. It hasn't been part of the national discourse on bullying. There's a real need to see this on the radar," Puhl, director of research at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy Camp, said according to the report.

The online survey included 1,425 teens aged between 14 and 18 years, 71 percent of whom were white.

According to the report, 40 percent of the respondents were clinically obese, while 24 percent were overweight and others were of normal weight.

While the majority of children said they were bullied at school for their weight, apparently only 20 percent of them said it happened often or very often. The participants said that people who teased or bullied them included teachers, physical education teachers or coaches and parents.

Puhl further said that overweight kids are bullied three to six times more often than others, depending on the age group.

"Pediatric medical providers, school personnel and educators can really help youth by putting weight-based teasing on the radar, and making sure this is being addressed on par with other forms of bullying," she said.

"There's a greater recognition that it can have significant short- and long-term consequences, both physical and emotional," Dr. Mark Schuster, chief of general pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital, said.

"Kids can be emotionally scarred for a long time, and they can carry this into adulthood," added Schuster, who co-wrote a commentary accompanying the study, the report said.

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