Prevalence, characteristics, and psychological outcomes of workplace cyberbullying during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan: a cross-sectional online survey

BMC Public Health. 2022 May 31;22(1):1087. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-13481-6.


Background: The rapid introduction of teleworking due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has led to concerns about increases in cyberbullying (CB) worldwide. However, little is known about workplace CB in non-Western countries. The first objective was to clarify the prevalence and characteristics regarding workplace CB victimization in Japan. The second objective was to demonstrate the psychological outcomes of CB victimization in combination with traditional bullying (TB).

Methods: We conducted an anonymous, cross-sectional, Internet-based survey targeting regular employees in Japan (N = 1200) in January 2021. We investigated CB victimization using the Inventory of Cyberbullying Acts at Work and TB victimization by using the Short Negative Act Questionnaire. Possible explanatory factors for TB/CB victimization were sociodemographic variables, personality trait, chronic occupational stress, organizational climate, and gratitude at work. We also measured psychological distress, insomnia, and loneliness to assess adverse effects of workplace bullying. Two-step cluster analysis was used in determining the patterns combined with TB and CB victimization. Hierarchical binomial logistic regression analysis was used.

Results: In total, 8.0% of employees reported experiencing CB on a weekly basis. CB victimization was associated with younger age, managerial position, higher qualitative workload, and active information dissemination via the Internet, and frequency of teleworking. Three clusters based on TB and CB victimization patterns were identified: those who belong to the first cluster suffered neither from TB and CB (81.0%), the second cluster suffered only from TB (14.3%), and the third cluster suffered from both TB and CB (4.8%). The third cluster exhibited higher odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for psychological distress (OR = 12.63, 95% CI = 4.20-38.03), insomnia (OR = 6.26, 95% CI = 2.80-14.01), and loneliness (OR = 3.24, 95% CI = 1.74-6.04) compared to the first cluster.

Conclusions: These findings firstly clarify the prevalence and correlated factors of CB victimization among employees in Japan. Further, we showed that psychological wellbeing can be impaired by the coexistence of TB and CB. Our research could be the first step to develop the effective countermeasures against workplace CB.

Keywords: Cyberbullying; Internet use; Japan; Teleworking; Worker; Workplace bullying.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cyberbullying*
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Occupational Stress*
  • Pandemics
  • Prevalence
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders*
  • Workplace / psychology