Most kids have bullied or been bullied in school, but this doesn?t mean it should be condoned.

Extreme cases of bullying are known to trigger depression and social isolation and even to lead to suicide, according to researchers.

Several recent studies on bullying come to similar conclusions. First, boys bully more than girls; students who like school are often targets of bullying; and bullying can lead to irritation, anger and violence.

Researchers in Finland looked at 16,410 adolescents in secondary schools in two regions and found an increased prevalence of depression and suicidal thoughts among both those who bully and those who do the bullying. About one in 10 of the youngsters between ages 14-16 reported being bullied weekly at school.

Those youngsters at most risk of depression and suicide were those who were both a bully and got bullied, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The researchers say psychiatric intervention should be considered for students who get pushed around as well as the bullies themselves.

Students who are frequently bullied can have difficulty sleeping, get headaches and abdominal pains and suffer other behavioral symptoms, including depression. The act of persistent bullying, on the other hand, is often associated with delinquency in adulthood.

Australian researchers say 23.7 percent of students in New South Wales Schools report bullying other students; 12.7 percent say they were bullied and 21.5 percent say they were both bullied and have bullied others. The rest, 49.4 percent, say they didn?t bully and weren?t bullied.

This study, also published in the British Medical Journal, says bullies tended to be unhappy in school and engage in behaviors that compromise their health, such as smoking or alcohol use. Those bullied, on the other hand, often had poor mental health and psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches and irritability.

A separate study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the greater a student?s anger, the more bullying the student does. The CDC report, done at a suburban Indiana middle school, also says that 81 percent of students admitted they had bullied a classmate in the last month.

Those who are bullied can also explode, the researchers say. For example, the students who shot and killed classmates at Columbine High School were teased mercilessly. This doesn?t justify what they did, but it?s an example of how bullying can lead to violence.

If your kid is being bullied, it?s best to try to nip it in the bud if possible by talking to teachers or school officials. This should be done after school and when other classmates won?t notice. Early intervention is important because chronic bullying can lead to depression and withdrawal.

Every parent has probably run into one side or the other of the bullying problem. It?s not an easy issue to deal with but it?s important to be aware of your child?s feelings and emotions when it comes to their relationships with others.

Source: British Medical Journal, August 7, 1999.