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Suicides Rising Sharply Among Women, Elderly, Educated

2012/04/07 | 918 views |  | Permalink | Source

Korea's suicide rate has skyrocketed since the Asian economic crisis and is now 2.3 times higher than the rate of death from traffic accidents. In the 1990s, about 7.3 people for every 100,000 committed suicide, but that has soared especially among women, the elderly, highly educated people, professionals, and divorcees.

The number of women who killed themselves rose 2.8 times from 1,853 in 1996 to 5,237 in 2010, and among men 2.5 times. The suicide rate for women was 19.7 for every 100,000 people in 2009, the highest in the OECD and 25 times greater than in Greece.

Women are less prone to suicide than men, but whereas in the U.K. and Germany the suicide rate among women is just a quarter or one-third of that among men, in Korea it is 50.7 percent.

Psychiatrist Sa Seung-eon said, "In the early 1980s, the number of women who committed suicide was just one-third that of men in Korea too. The reason for the surge among women is that depression is three times more prevalent among women and they suffer excessive stress from increased economic activity in addition to their traditional role in the family". He added that many women kill themselves without recognizing that they are suffering from depression.

In 1996, the suicide rate was higher among people in their 20s and 30s, but while the figure is declining among these age groups, it is rising among people over 40. The reason suicide became the No. 1 cause of death for young people in Korea is that deaths caused by other factors decreased sharply. Suicide among people over 65 jumped from 10.5 percent to 28.1 percent.

Experts blame the lack of a social safety net and poverty among the elderly amid a fast growth of the elderly population.

Suicide among highly educated people, professionals and corporate managers also increased. The proportion of university graduates among all suicides has soared from 12.9 percent to 24.4 percent. While the proportion of single or married people dropped, the proportion of divorcees grew from 5.7 percent to 12.8 percent. Suicide is particularly common among divorced men and widowed women.

Surprisingly, most people kill themselves in late spring or summer. May saw highest average number of suicides per day with 31.5, followed by 30.6 in April, 29.5 in June, and 29.1 in July. The bleak month of January, by contrast, saw the fewest suicides with 20.7 per day.

According to a 2011 report on mental health by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 16 percent of people have thought about suicide and 3 percent have tried to kill themselves. Some 108,000 Koreans a year attempt suicide.

This is related to increase in mental health problems. Over 90 percent of those who commit suicide have mental problems, and experts say 60 to 80 percent of them suffer depression. The proportion of people with depression has risen from 5.6 percent of population in 2006 to 6.7 percent, but only 15.3 percent have gone to hospital for help.

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