The number of married Korean men who live apart from their wives and children has more than tripled since 2000.

According to a report by Lee Yeo-bong at Kangnam University published by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, the proportion of single households consisting of men in their 40s and 50s rose from 24.4 percent in 2000 to 32.5 percent in 2016.

Their number stood at 1.75 million last year, up 3.24 times from 2000. And married men with children made up 345,701 two years ago, up from just 150,085 in 2000.

"The middle years used to be a time when married couples are thought to raise their children together thanks to job security and high incomes," the report said. "But amid an increase in single households, families have been torn apart, exacerbating finances and leading to loneliness due to separation that can threaten health."

"Living alone in one's middle years can lead to a failure to satisfy emotional and sexual desires as well as the need for security, resulting in increased anxiety and increasing rates of divorce, which in turn lead to a surge in the number of lonely elderly people," Lee said.

One reason is an increase in companies relocating outside of Seoul. The report points out that many businesses relocated to provincial areas and government ministries moved out of the capital as well, resulting in jobs being scattered across the country.

Many workers whose spouses also have jobs ended up moving to another city alone. The superior education opportunities in Seoul also prompted many to decide to keep their families in the city while they moved away.

Another reason for the rise in single householders in their 40s and 50s was divorce. Last year, divorced men were on average 47.2 years old and divorced women 43.6, compared to 36.7 for men and 32.6 for women back in 1990. The rate of divorce was highest among men in their late 40s (18.7 percent of total divorces) and women in their early 40s (17.9 percent of total divorces).

They often end up alone and unhappy. A study published by the institute showed 13.9 percent of single householders contemplated suicide, higher than the 10.9 percent among senior citizens and 4.7 percent among teens.

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