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School anti-bullying efforts may backfire

Tragic stories of bullying, such as the 12-year-old Florida girl who killed herself earlier this month after being victimized, invariably start conversations about what more could be done. A new analysis of a 2005-2006 national survey of 7,000 students, ages 12-18, suggests school anti-bullying programs may do more harm than good.

Students attending schools with prevention programs were more likely to report bullying than those at schools without such programs, according to the study’s lead author, Seokjin Jeong, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at University of Texas Arlington. Students at schools with anti-bullying programs may be more likely to report such abuse, Jeong said. Or, more darkly, he said, students may use the programs to learn how to bully their peers or to hide their abuse from adults. “My study raises the alarm for the public and school officials,” he said. “Merely implementing an anti-bullying program is not good enough.”

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Previous research has shown that bullying can inflict dramatic and lifelong damage on its victims, leading to anxiety, depression, confusion, low self-esteem, and — as with the Florida girl — suicide. More than half the students in Jeong’s study reported having been bullied during the school year, with about half reporting emotional abuse and 14 percent physical abuse, such as being hit, kicked, pushed, or locked indoors. Boys were more likely to have been victims of physical abuse and girls were more often subject to emotional abuse; younger adolescents were more often victimized than older teens.

BOTTOM LINE: Schools may need to work harder to develop programs that sufficiently discourage students from abusing each other.

CAUTIONS: The survey recorded whether students’ schools had anti-bullying programs. It did not detail their quality. Some programs may be very effective — particularly, other research suggests, those with parental and community involvement — while others are not, Jeong said.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of Criminology, 2013

Statins may cause cataracts

Researchers had predicted that statin drugs, given to control cholesterol, would also cut the risk of age-related eye diseases by reducing inflammation and other damage. But evidence was contradictory about the connection between statins and cataracts, a leading cause of vision problems. To resolve the conflict, Texas researchers looked at data from nearly 7,000 military members who took statins and an equal number who didn’t. Those on statins were more likely to have cataracts, a clouding of the eyes that limits vision.

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BOTTOM LINE: Taking statins may put people at higher risk for cataracts, and they should talk to their doctor if they notice changes in their vision.

CAUTIONS: The study did not determine how much statin use may increase the risk for cataracts.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Ophthalmology, online Sept. 19

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