Purpose: Establishing how the Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdowns have affected adolescent mental health is a key societal priority. Though numerous studies have examined this topic, few have focused on the wellbeing of pupils who experience school bullying. This is particularly important as pupils who experience bullying represent a vulnerable group at increased risk of mental illness. Therefore, we sought to investigate the relationship between experience of bullying and adolescent wellbeing during lockdown and subsequent re-opening of schools.
Methods: We used the TeenCovidLife dataset to examine the relationship between experience of bullying and pupils' perceived stress and wellbeing across three timepoints. Pupils aged 12-17 (n = 255) completed surveys during the first Covid-19 lockdown (May-July 2020), when they returned to school after the first lockdown (August-October 2020), and during the summer term of 2021 (May-June 2021).
Results: Perceived stress was higher in the group of pupils that experienced bullying than in the group that did not, though this difference between groups was smaller during lockdown than when pupils were attending school in person. Pupils who were bullied showed lower wellbeing across all timepoints. For the full sample of pupils, wellbeing was lowest (and perceived stress highest) at Time 3, one year after the first Covid-19 lockdown.
Conclusion: The findings challenge previous assumptions that Covid-19 lockdowns were associated with a generalised decline in adolescent mental health. Instead, the picture is more nuanced, with perceived stress, though not wellbeing, varying according pupils' experiences of school bullying.
- Perceived Stress