The impact of loneliness on self-rated health symptoms among victimized school children.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 05/2012; 6(1):20. DOI: 10.1186/1753-2000-6-20
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT BACKGROUND: Loneliness is associated with peer victimization, and the two adverse experiences are both related to ill health in childhood and adolescence. There is, however, a lack of knowledge on the importance of loneliness among victimized children. Therefore, possible modifying effects of loneliness on victimized school children's self-rated health were assessed. METHODS: A population based cross-section study included 419 children in grades 1-10 from five schools. The prevalence of loneliness and victimization across grades was analyzed by linear test for trend, and associations of the adverse experiences with four health symptoms (sadness, anxiety, stomach ache, and headache) were estimated by logistic regression. RESULTS: In crude regression analysis, both victimization and loneliness showed positive associations with all the four health symptoms. However, in multivariable analysis, the associations of victimization with health symptoms were fully attenuated except for headache. In contrast, loneliness retained about the same strength of associations in the multivariable analysis as in the crude analysis. More detailed analyses demonstrated that children who reported both victimization and loneliness had three to seven times higher prevalence of health symptoms compared to children who reported neither victimization nor loneliness (the reference group). Rather surprisingly, victimized children who reported no loneliness did not have any higher prevalence of health symptoms than the reference group, whereas lonely children without experiences of victimization had almost the same prevalence of health symptoms (except for stomach ache) as children who were both victimized and lonely. CONCLUSIONS: Adverse effects of loneliness need to be highlighted, and for victimized children, experiences of loneliness may be an especially harsh risk factor related to ill health.

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    ABSTRACT: For some adolescents feeling lonely can be a protracted and painful experience. It has been suggested that engaging in health risk behaviours such as substance use and sexual behaviour may be a way of coping with the distress arising from loneliness during adolescence. However, the association between loneliness and health risk behaviour has been little studied to date. To address this research gap, the current study examined this relation among Russian and U.S. adolescents. Data were used from the Social and Health Assessment (SAHA), a school-based survey conducted in 2003. A total of 1995 Russian and 2050 U.S. students aged 13-15 years old were included in the analysis. Logistic regression was used to examine the association between loneliness and substance use, sexual risk behaviour, and violence. After adjusting for demographic characteristics and depressive symptoms, loneliness was associated with a significantly increased risk of adolescent substance use in both Russia and the United States. Lonely Russian girls were significantly more likely to have used marijuana (odds ratio [OR]: 2.28; confidence interval [CI]: 1.17-4.45), while lonely Russian boys had higher odds for past 30-day smoking (OR, 1.87; CI, 1.08-3.24). In the U.S. loneliness was associated with the lifetime use of illicit drugs (excepting marijuana) among boys (OR, 3.09; CI, 1.41-6.77) and with lifetime marijuana use (OR, 1.79; CI, 1.26-2.55), past 30-day alcohol consumption (OR, 1.80; CI, 1.18-2.75) and past 30-day binge drinking (OR, 2.40; CI, 1.56-3.70) among girls. The only relation between loneliness and sexual risk behaviour was among Russian girls, where loneliness was associated with significantly higher odds for ever having been pregnant (OR, 1.69; CI: 1.12-2.54). Loneliness was not associated with violent behaviour among boys or girls in either country. Loneliness is associated with adolescent health risk behaviour among boys and girls in both Russia and the United States. Further research is now needed in both settings using quantitative and qualitative methods to better understand the association between loneliness and health risk behaviours so that effective interventions can be designed and implemented to mitigate loneliness and its effects on adolescent well-being.
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