Cyberbullying and Obesity in Adolescents: Prevalence and Associations in Seven European Countries of the EU NET ADB Survey

Children (Basel). 2021 Mar 18;8(3):235. doi: 10.3390/children8030235.


Background: overweight and obese individuals may often face aggressive messages or comments on the internet. This study attempts to evaluate the association between cyberbullying victimization and overweight/obesity in adolescents participating in the European Network for Addictive Behavior (EU NET ADB) survey.

Methods: a school-based cross-sectional study of adolescents aged 14-17.9 years was conducted (n = 8785) within the EU NET ADB survey, including data from seven European countries (Germany, Greece, Iceland, the Netherlands, Romania, Poland, Spain). Complex samples and univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed.

Results: overall, overweight adolescents were more likely to have been cyberbullied compared to their normal weight peers (adjusted OR (Odds ratio) = 1.20, CI (confidence intervals): 1.01-1.42); this association was pronounced in Germany (adjusted OR = 1.58, CI: 1.11-2.25). In Iceland, obese adolescents reported cyberbullying victimization more frequently compared to their normal weight peers (adjusted OR = 2.87, 95% CI: 1.00-8.19). No significant associations with cyberbullying victimization were identified either for obese or overweight adolescents in Greece, Spain, Romania, Poland, and the Netherlands.

Conclusions: this study reveals an overall association between cyberbullying victimization and overweight on the basis of a sizable, representative sample of adolescent population from seven European countries. Country-specific differences might reflect differential behavioral perceptions, but also normalization aspects.

Keywords: adolescents; cyberbullying; mental health; obesity; overweight.