The association between school bullying victimization and substance use among adolescents in Malawi: the mediating effect of loneliness

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Background and objectives Research has shown an increased prevalence of substance use among adolescents in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Peer affiliation, bullying, and psychological stress are significantly associated with substance use. This study empirically tested theoretical frameworks linking peer affiliation, bullying victimization, loneliness and substance use (specifically tobacco or alcohol use) among adolescents. Materials and methods Data were obtained from the 2009 Malawi Global School-based Health Survey (GSHS) with a representative sample of 2359 students aged 13-17 years in Malawi, Sub-Saharan Africa. Missing data were handled using multiple imputation. The study conducted path analyses using Mplus to test the conceptual models of tobacco use and alcohol use. Results The results showed that loneliness partially mediated the association between bullying victimization and tobacco use in the first model, as well as the relationship between bullying victimization and alcohol use in the second model. Results indicated statistically significant indirect paths from bullying victimization to tobacco use and alcohol use through the mediation of loneliness. However, peer affiliation did not directly predict bullying victimization in the two path models; it directly predicted tobacco use only. Conclusions These findings have important implications in early intervention for health practitioners in school and mental health settings to prevent feelings of loneliness and substance use among adolescents who have experience with bullying victimization but no experience with depression, alcohol use or tobacco use.

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International journal of adolescent medicine and health

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