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The economic cost of bullying in Australian schools

Bullying Cyberbullying Students Australia

PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting (Australia) Pty Limited (PwC) was engaged by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation (AMF), with funding from the Victorian Department of Education and Training, to conduct an economic impact analysis of the cost of bullying in Australian schools, and Victorian schools specifically.

The objective of this analysis has been to identify and quantify, to the extent possible, the breadth of the impacts of bullying across student and adult life. This analysis will be used to raise awareness about the impacts that bullying has in the community, as well as facilitate discussions amongst key stakeholders to further investigate the issue.

Bullying is considered to be the ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. For the purpose of this study, it is defined as repeated incidents of at least once per month, and for some students, this can occur as much as once or twice a day.  The economic modelling completed in this analysis calculates the impacts of bullying based on this definition during school years and over a period of 20 years after school completion.

In Australia, there are approximately 910,000 students who are victims of bullying each year, totalling an estimated 45 million bullying incidents across all schools, instigated by around 543,000 bully perpetrators. The relationship between bully perpetrators and bully victims is complex, with a portion of students acting as ‘bully-victims’ who are both victim to and perpetrators of bullying at different stages. There are an estimated 218,000 bully-victims, representing 24 per cent of victims of bullying and 40 per cent of bully perpetrators.

Bullying is an important issue due to its high prevalence among Australian students and the lasting impacts that it has beyond a student’s school years. As technology use continues to rise, so does cyber bullying, which operates in a markedly changed environment where students can find themselves victimised at home as well as in the community or at school. Understanding the economic cost and impacts associated with bullying is critical to inform the design of the appropriate evidence informed programs and prevention measures to reduce prevalence.

There has been no Australian economic study that seeks to quantify the impacts and consequences of bullying. This quantified estimate of the cost of bullying seeks to highlight the scale of the negative impacts of bullying, often experienced on a personal level or shared anecdotally, given that the costs of bullying are experienced by its victims, perpetrators and family and community members. This analysis focuses on the victims of bullying at school and the impacts of the incidents themselves. The causes of bullying are not in scope for this analysis.

This report contains the results of the economic analysis of the cost of bullying in schools in Australia. It describes the approach to complete the economic cost analysis, presents the results and identifies the limitations to the analysis. A supporting technical appendix provides detail around the methodology for each economic cost indicators.

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