The number of Japanese youngsters officially punished for bullying last year jumped 41 percent over the previous year, a police report said Thursday, amid heightened concern over bullying in schools. Japan's National Police Agency said there were 233 cases of bullying last year involving 460 youths who were punished through the courts or juvenile authorities.

Both numbers had been steadily rising over the past four years and represented a 41 percent jump from the respective figures for 2005, according to the report.

Police began keeping statistics on bullying offenses in 1984, with a peak in 1985 when 1,950 youths were punished for involvement in 638 incidents, police official Kanji Takizawa said.

Bullying has long been a problem in Japanese schools, where students are under harsh competitive pressure, conformism is valued and those who do not fit in can be mercilessly picked on.

Concerns have grown in recent years, and especially after a spate of bullying-linked youth suicides last fall. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month urged that stronger measures be taken to punish school bullies.

Takizawa said police were still analyzing the data released Thursday. He added that it was too soon to tell if the jump reflected an increase in bullying overall, or if it showed youths and parents had become more aware about how to report such incidents due to the heightened attention given the issue last year.

Click here for more Asia stories on FOXNews.com.