$2.3 billion bullying burden to follow Australian school students

in Press Releases

Media Release - 19 March 2018

Almost a quarter of Australian school students are bullied at some stage during their time in school with costs reaching $2.3 billion over the lifetime of each school year group, according to a new PwC Australia analysis commissioned by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

The Economic Cost of Bullying in Australian Schools reveals that, each year, approximately 910,000 Australian school students experience bullying, instigated by 543,000 bully perpetrators.  Victims experience 45 million bullying incidents each year - more than one per school week.

The analysis estimates bullying costs $2.3 billion for each school year group. This breaks down to $525 million over the 13 schooling years; then a further $1.8 billion over a 20 year period after the students finish school.  These costs result from significant impacts to the victim’s health and wellbeing as well as their productivity.

Alannah & Madeline Foundation CEO, Lesley Podesta, said: “This study quantifies the extensive impacts of bullying across student and adult life. While the findings are shocking, they are not surprising. 

“The trauma bullying causes victims, their families, schools and the community is significant and is felt both immediately and long after victims have completed school.  Bullying is complex and self-perpetuating and requires interventions at multiple levels - 218,000 students who are victims will go on to bully later. 

“Putting a dollar figure on a problem that is about the wellbeing and safety of human beings may seem a bit impersonal, but we think it’s a powerful way to shine a spotlight on the immediate and ongoing social, economic and fiscal impacts of Australia’s bullying problem. 

“Understanding these costs is critical to informing effective programs and prevention measures to reduce its occurrence. In particular, this analysis highlights the snowball effect of bullying at school and the importance of starting prevention focused programs at the start of each student’s schooling life,” Ms Podesta said.

The $525 million in costs experienced during schooling years include $182 million for carers of students who are absent due to bullying, $5 million for direct primary and acute health services, $28 million for mental health services, $3 million for police involvement and $307 million for senior staff time spent on bullying.

The $1.8 billion in economic costs experienced over a 20 year period after students finish school include a $506 million impact on income due to lower educational attainment[1], over $150 million for ongoing costs associated with mental health conditions, $156 million for adult obesity, $34 million for eating disorders, $945 million in costs related to continued bullying behaviour including violence, and $2 million as a result of the tragic circumstance of suicide.

Child psychologist and National Centre Against Bullying member, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, said he has seen the lasting damage bullying causes to young people’s confidence and sense of worth.  “Ensuring young people feel included, valued and respected for who they are is essential to keeping them happy and safe, and to allow them to grow up strong and resilient.”


Notes for editors:

About the analysis:

  • Bullying is considered to be the ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour with the intention to upset, hurt or intimidate somebody.
  • Bullying is classified in three main categories: 1) overt bullying, which is most easily identified because of its visible nature be it physical, verbal or visible exclusion 2) covert bullying, which is more difficult to detect, and includes spreading rumours 3) cyber bullying, which is a form of traditional bullying online – where prevalence is particularly hard to clarify.
  • School year group refers to all students in one school year – from kindergarten to Year 12 – a total of 13 years at school, on average.

About the Alannah & Madeline Foundation:

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation was set up in memory of Alannah and Madeline Mikac, aged six and three, who were tragically killed with their mother and 32 others at Port Arthur, Tasmania, on 28 April 1996. Launched in 1997, the Foundation has reached more than two million children and their families nationwide. Its key objectives are to care for children who have experienced or witnessed serious violence; reduce the incidence of bullying, cyberbullying and other cyber risks; and advocate for the safety and wellbeing of children.

Its anti-bullying programs are in one third of all Australian schools, and more than two thirds of all Australian public libraries (reaching all 1,500 within the next three years) and it supports 10,000 children in refuges or foster homes across Australia every year.

About PWC Australia:

PwC is one of Australia's leading professional services firms, bringing the power of our global network of firms to help Australian businesses, not-for-profit organisations and governments assess their performance and improve the way they work. Having grown from a one-man Melbourne accountancy practice in 1874 to the worldwide merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand in 1998, PwC Australia now employs more than 7,000 people.

Our people are energetic and inspirational and come from a diverse range of academic backgrounds, including arts, business, accounting, tax, economics, engineering, finance, health and law. From improving the structure of the Australian health system, to performing due diligence on some of Australia's largest deals, and working side-by-side with entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals, our teams bring a unique combination of knowledge and passion to address the challenges and opportunities that face our community.

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 158 countries with more than 236,000 people. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see www.pwc.com/structure for further details.


 2. Economic costs that will be experienced during schooling for new starters in 2018

Economic cost domain

Costs experienced during school years (millions)

Senior staff time spent on bullying


Cost of carers for students at home


Primary and acute health services


Mental health service use


Police involvement




Economic costs experienced over a 20 year period beyond school years

Economic cost domain

Costs experienced beyond school years (millions)

Educational attainment impact on income


Adult mental health conditions


Adult obesity costs


Eating disorders


Family violence






 [1]  victims earn on average $7,000 less in income after finishing school compared to those who are not bullied

Read the full report here.

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