Obese children are more likely to be bullied than their normal—weight peers regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic status, social skills or academic achievement, according to a new study.

The University of Michigan—Ann Arbor study that analysed bullying incidents of 821 elementary school students found that chubby children had higher odds of being bullied in the third, fifth and sixth grades.

The subjects of the study were tracked as part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. The survey data included incidences of bullying reported by children, mothers and teachers.

According to Julie C Lumeng, a professor at University of Michigan and the lead author of the study, being obese, by itself, increases the likelihood of being a victim of bullying.

“This study speaks to the deep prejudice against children who are obese,” said Lumeng. “They are viewed as lazy and lacking in self—control, but we know the reasons for obesity are so much more complex than that.”

Stressing that interventions to address bullying in schools are badly needed, Ms. Lumeng said: “Physicians who care for obese children should consider the role that being bullied is playing in the child’s well—being.

“Because perceptions of children are connected to broader societal perceptions about body type, it is important to fashion messages aimed at reducing the premium placed on thinness and the negative stereotypes that are associated with being obese or overweight.”

The objective of this study, which is published online in journal Paediatrics, was to determine the relationship between childhood obesity and being bullied in third, fifth, and sixth grades.