Lockdown Is Making Young Koreans Suicidal

  • By Lee Joon-woo

    May 07, 2021 12:39

    The drawn-out coronavirus lockdown is making more and more young people depressed and even suicidal as their lives have been on hold for more than a year.

    A survey of 2,110 people by the Korean Society for Traumatic Stress Studies in March and April gauged their depression levels from key words like "hopelessness," "fatigue" and "suicide." Out of the maximum points of 27, they averaged 5.7 points, compared to just 2.3 points in a survey in 2018.

    Among respondents in their 20s and 30s it reached an alarming 6.7 points, the highest among all age groups. The proportion of people scoring more than 10 points, which is considered a serious depression risk, was 22.8 percent, up six-fold from 2018. It was also especially high among respondents in their 20s (30 percent) and 30s (30.5 percent).

    In March last year the proportion had still been the smallest among 20-somethings at 13.3 percent.

    One 26-year-old who completed a graduate course in business management in Seoul earlier this year has gone to see a psychiatrist for the first time in her life. She became depressed because she could not find a job and broke up with her boyfriend. She also invested in stocks hoping to make some money but lost it.

    "Whatever jobs were available have dried up due to the coronavirus epidemic," she complained. "I gave up hope when I lost what little money I had in the stock market even though others made money that way."

    Some 16.3 percent of respondents had suicidal thoughts, 3.5 times more than in 2018 and almost twice as many as a year ago. The proportion was again the highest among respondents in their 20s (22.5 percent) and 30s (21.9 percent). In contrast, the proportion of people with suicidal thoughts in their 50s was 12.5 percent and among 60-somethings 10 percent.

    Shin Young-chul, a psychiatrist at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, said, "The most mobile and active generation suffers the most in lockdown. The government needs to come up with support measures quickly for the young generation."

    Meanwhile, Jeong Eun-kyeong, the chief of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, poured cold water on hopes that the government will let life go back to normal any time soon. "COVID-19 is difficult to control because it is not an infectious disease that can be stopped with a few vaccine shots," she claimed. "Infections could continue due to the emergence of variants."

    The daily tally of new coronavirus infections stood at 525 as of Friday morning.

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