Young People Hit Hardest by Lockdown Blues

  • By Kim Chul-joong

    May 01, 2021 08:42

    Young people have been the biggest victims of lockdown blues after more than a year has passed since the coronavirus epidemic started and no end is in sight.

    Lockdowns are expected to continue until the end of the year as infections continue to rise, while bans on large gatherings remain in place. Last year, some 1 million people in Korea were treated for depression and other mood disorders, up around 240,000 compared to 2016. Patients in their 20s accounted for 16.8 percent followed by people in their 60s and 50s.

    Many people in their 20s were being treated for depression even before the epidemic, but the age group had never surpassed patients over 60. Mental health experts believe a tough job market exacerbated by the epidemic and increased time spent alone at home have only fanned mood disorders among the young, who are naturally more gregarious than older people and feel the restrictions more keenly.

    Women in their 60s accounted for 16.9 percent of female depression patients. Park Sun-young at National Health Insurance Service Ilsan Hospital said, "Depression is usually twice as high among women as men, and the older patients are, the more common relapses are and the longer they suffer."

    To prevent depression, doctors advise people to increase human contact, which is difficult in lockdown, and expose themselves to sunlight. Kang Sung-min, a psychiatrist, said, "If dementia patients become socially isolated, symptoms could worsen. Efforts must be made to keep cognitive functions sharp, perhaps by playing online games or doing puzzles."

    As many adults complain about weight gain in lockdown, obesity has increased among children and teenagers too. A study of 90 obesity patients aged six to 18 led by Samsung Medical Center pediatrician Choe Yon-ho shows their weight increased by an average of 4 kg in only a couple months after schools closed early last year.

    "Parents need to exercise with their children at home and pay more attention to what they eat," Choe said.

    The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs found that the proportion of people who sought outpatient medical services or were hospitalized in the first half of 2020 stood at 59.1 percent, down from 68.9 percent the previous year, because they were afraid of infection in hospital.

    Shin Jung-woo at the Statistics Research Institute said, "Hospitals have become more vigilant, so we advise people to seek medical attention without fear."

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