Nearly 240 thousand bullying victims in 2021

© Hollandse Hoogte / Godong
In 2021, nearly 2 percent of the Dutch population aged 15 years and over reported they had been bullied in the previous year. This amounts to nearly 240 thousand people. Approximately 6 in 10 experienced emotional or psychological problems as a result. This is evident from the Safety Monitor 2021, compiled by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the Ministry of Security and Justice. This survey was conducted among 173 thousand Dutch citizens aged 15 years and over.

Men and women are almost equally likely to experience bullying. Young people are relatively more often targeted than older people. Bullying is also more prevalent among gays, lesbians and bisexuals compared to heterosexuals. Nearly one quarter of the over-15s - i.e. nearly 3.5 million people - report having been bullied at some time.

Victims of bullying, 2021
 2021 (%)
15 to 17 yrs3.8
18 to 24 yrs2.0
25 to 44 yrs1.7
45 to 64 yrs1.6
65 yrs and over1.0
Sexual orientation
Bisexual men3.9
Bisexual women4.5
Heterosexual men1.3
Heterosexual women1.5

More victims of traditional bullying than cyberbullying

Forty-seven percent of the respondents were only victims of traditional bullying (as opposed to online bullying or cyberbullying); 31 percent experienced only online bullying, and 19 percent were harassed in both ways. The remaining 3 percent did not answer the question how they were bullied. Young people (15 to 24-year-olds) are more likely to fall victim to online bullying while older people (the over-45s and particularly the over-65s) encounter more traditional bullying.

Around 7 in 10 victims knew the perpetrator

In 69 percent of the cases, the bullying perpetrator was known to the victim from the beginning. Two percent of the victims did not know the perpetrator initially, but found out at a later stage. Especially in cases of cyberbullying, the perpetrator was often unknown (43 percent). Nearly 6 out of 10 victims were bullied by more than one perpetrator. Older people were mostly bullied by people from their own neighbourhood, while young people were mainly harassed by fellow students or by friends.

Perpetrators of bullying, 20211)
 Total (% of victims)15 to 24 yrs (% of victims)25 to 44 yrs (% of victims)45 to 64 yrs (% of victims)65 yrs and over (% of victims)
Family member3.
Fellow student or pupil11.437.
Teacher or other instructor1.
Acquaintance at sports or hobby club2.
Other known person13.311.712.116.311.6
1) More than one answer is possible.

Nearly 60 percent experience emotional impact

Fifty-eight percent of the victims of bullying have suffered emotional or psychological consequences; 5 percent have suffered physical injuries and 7 percent have experienced financial problems. Traditional bullying is more likely to have consequences than cyberbullying, but especially a combination of the two has a great impact. Among the victims of both traditional and online bullying, 76 percent indicated they (had) suffered emotional consequences. Almost 60 percent had less trust in others as a result of the bullying, and 40 percent felt less safe. Bullying can also lead to depressive symptoms; young people were twice as likely to report this as older people.

Mental problems by type of bullying, 20211)
 Total (% of victims)Traditional bullying only (% of victims)Cyberbullying only (% of victims)Both traditional and cyberbullying (% of victims)
Less trust in others56.759.246.571.0
Feeling less safe39.743.525.956.4
Depressive symptoms27.324.418.549.9
Sleeping problems25.026.416.738.2
Anxiety symptoms
and/or panic attacks
Reliving the experience16.616.310.230.0
None of these19.914.930.710.3
No answer3.
1) More than one answer is possible.

7 in 10 victims reported bullying

Close to 70 percent of the victims reported the bullying incident somewhere, mainly by informing friends or family (41 percent) or notifying the police (22 percent). An official report to the police was made by 16 percent of the victims. The main reason for victims not to notify or report to the police was that 'it doesn't help anyway'. Nearly 4 in 10 victims cited this as one reason or one of the reasons.

Reporting of bullying incidents, 2021
 2021 (% of victims)
Share reporting incidents68.9
To friends or family40.7
To the police21.8
At school12.4
At work10.6
On social media6.0
To Veilig Thuis2.4
Via child helpline or other bullying helpline0.6
Share reporting officially15.6