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Sports participation reduces suicide attempts among bullied teens
Regular exercise significantly reduces both suicidal thoughts and attempts among youngsters who are bullied, according to a new study.
Using data from the CDC's National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of more than 13,000 students, researchers at the University of Vermont found that being physically active four or more days per week resulted in a 23 percent reduction in suicidal ideation and attempts in bullied students. Nationwide nearly 20 percent of students reported being bullied on school property.
Previous studies have shown that exercise has positive effects on various mental health measures. This is the first, however, to show a link between physical activity and a reduction in suicidal thoughts and attempts by bullied students, who are also at increased risk for poor academic performance, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sadness and substance abuse.
Overall, 30 percent of students in the study reported feeling sad for two or more weeks in the previous year while more than 22 percent reported suicidal ideation; and 8.2 percent reported actual suicidal attempts during the same time period.
Bullied students were twice as likely to report sadness, and three times as likely to report suicidal ideation or attempt when compared to peers who were not bullied. Exercise on four or more days per week was also associated with significant reductions in sadness.
"I was surprised that it was that significant and that positive effects of exercise extended to kids actually trying to harm themselves," said lead author Jeremy Sibold, associate professor and chair of the Department Rehabilitation and Movement Science. "Even if one kid is protected because we got them involved in an after-school activity or in a physical education program it's worth it."
Overall, it is estimated that only about half of America's youth meet the current evidence-based guideline of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department of at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity daily.
If exercise reduces sadness, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts, then why in the world are we cutting physical education programs and making it harder for students to make athletic teams at such a critical age?" Sibold said.
FREE BULLYING PREVENTION TRAINING AVAILABLE
If you are looking for information on dealing with bullying, the National Alliance for Youth Sports offers its Bullying Prevention Training, a free online program for coaches, parents, youth sports administrators and anyone else learning more about this serious issue that affects millions of children. Click HERE for more information on the program.
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