The economic cost of cyberbullying in New Zealand is an estimated $444 million a year.
A new report commissioned by NetSafe shows the damage from online bullying and harassment, and how cyberbullying has been primarily understood in terms of social cost and personal harm.
The report gives a "starting point to begin to understand the full impact of this behaviour here in New Zealand, and where best to focus interventions and responses," says NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker.
"Cyberbullying can be hugely impactful. The report shows that it can reduce educational achievement and has been linked to poorer health outcomes in some countries."
The estimated cost of cyberbullying is drawn from a number of factors including loss of life, the cost of time and resources spent on the victims of cyberbullying, and the willingness of people to pay to avoid cyberbullying.
Not taken into account is the long-term cost of cyberbullying on mental health, physical health and productivity, which would likely increase the cost significantly, the report says.
A survey commissioned for the NetSafe report reveals that one in 10 New Zealand adults have personally experienced online harm, and that 64 percent of people are concerned about the impact of cyberbullying and its effect on society.
"Typically, we think of harm from cyberbullying as affecting an individual victim, but there can be societal and even economic impacts," says lead economist for the report, Shamubeel Eaqub.
"Our ability to communicate facilitates trade, transfer of knowledge and deepens social connections," he says, adding, "If communication breaks down between people, it will have a knock-on effect on the economy."
"New technology has become ubiquitous, but when we look into the scale of the effect of cyberbullying, it is apparent that resourcing to manage the risks has not kept pace."
The report says cyberbullying is often associated with emotional and psychological conditions, including stress, lower self-esteem and life satisfaction.
The Ministry of Justice says hundreds of people have been helped by cyberbullying laws that have been introduced in recent years.
The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 includes a range of measures to prevent and reduce the impact of cyberbullying and other modern forms of harassment and intimidation.
The Act established NetSafe as an approved agency to assess, investigate and deal with complaints, and introduced a civil court process for serious or repeated harmful digital communications.
NetSafe received more than 900 requests for help in the first 6 months since it began acting as the approved agency in November 2016.
The Government has highlighted mental health as a priority for New Zealanders, having put around $249 million into mental health in Budget 2018. Health Minister David Clark said it's the largest amount of funding allocated in ten years.
A ministerial inquiry into mental health was announced by Dr Clark in January and a report is due to be released in October about the findings.