What country has the most bullies?

It's not the U.S. Part of our series to mark National Bullying Prevention Month

Colleen Kaman By Colleen Kaman

We are coming to the end of National Bullying Prevention Month, a good time to ask just how does the U.S. compare with other countries when it comes to bullying?

Ranking countries on their bullying records isn’t easy.

For one, the word “bully” has different connotations in different languages. For another, children are – for understandable reasons – not always forthcoming on the topic.

The Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey examined bullying among approximately 200,000 school-aged children in 40 countries (2005-2006).

Still, this global survey on bullying behaviors across 40 countries reveals some fascinating and sometimes surprising facts. To explore the results yourself, launch the data explorer.

  • Boys reported higher rates of bullying in all countries. Girls are more likely to employ indirect forms of aggression. These include gossiping and spreading rumors.
  • Physical aggression tends to decrease as children age. Although verbal aggression–think insult and threats–increases as children get older.

As to national differences…

        • The differences between countries can be pretty stark. Among Swedish girls, for example, fewer than 5 per cent reported any involvement in bullying activities, compared to nearly 36 per cent of Lithuanian girls.
        • The United States is bang in the middle of the rankings – not the best but certainly not the worst either.
        • Countries with the lowest reported incidents of bullying are Hungary, Norway, Ireland, and Finland. The highest rates are in Lithuania, Latvia, and Greece.

Here are some more interesting facts and figures from around the world:


In Japan and South Korea, bullying is more likely to focus on social exclusion rather than any beating up among classroom peers. An entire classroom might discriminate against one individual. In Japan, this form of social segregation is known as ijime.

The prize-winning documentary below tells the story of one Japanese teacher determined to tackle bullying and other problems by making his students talk openly, in class, about their feelings.


The general consensus among experts is that bullying is not on the rise. What’s changing is how it’s expressed because of new media technologies.

Take Indonesia. It’s the fourth most populous country in the world and the largest Muslim country. And it’s also one of the most socially networked. Indonesia has the third-largest community of Facebook users in the world. It also produces 15% of the world’s tweets!

A recent poll suggests that Indonesian children are among the most cyberbullied. In fact, more than 50 per cent of Indonesian adults reported that they know of a child who has been bullied online.

Canada/United States:

The U.S. and Canada take a hard line with bullying: zero tolerance policies are more likely than not. That’s in contrast to Europe and Australia where policymakers have tended to see the problem as an education issue that requires training for both bullies and victims. Does zero tolerance work? Experts say not necessarily.

McGill University’s Shaheen Shariff points to new legislation in Ontario that requires schools to punish offenders as well as to federal legislation that calls for “harsher and lengthier sentences for younger, and younger offenders.” Shariff warns: “If you’re going to expel these kids, or put them through the criminal justice system, where is the educational value?”


Anti-bullying measures developed in the Nordic countries are broadly viewed as the gold standard. Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus [who has spoken exclusively with Latitude News] has developed one of the most popular intervention programs to date. Now, a new type of anti-bullying program out of Finland is generating significant interest among bullying experts worldwide.

Known as KiVA, the program aims to involve all students and teachers in tackling bullying, including bystanders.

The results have been so promising that 90 per cent of comprehensive schools in the Finland have implemented the program.

This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on February 20.