Depression Rises But Suicides Drop

  • By Ahn Sang-hyun

    September 03, 2021 12:44

    Increasing depression is a source of concern in Korea's never-ending lockdown and the financial devastation it has wrought on so many people. But although many feared that this would drive up the suicide rate among suicide-prone Koreans, it has actually gone down.

    According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, suicides in fact declined 5.7 percent last year to 13,018. In the U.S., the suicide rate also declined 5.6 percent.

    Suicide rates in the U.K., Canada and Australia also shrank.

    Experts had forecast an increase as the coronavirus pandemic resulted in soaring unemployment, bankruptcies and social isolation. And indeed, the number of people suffering from depression has risen.

    According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, the number of people who received treatment for depression in 2020 increased by almost 250,000 to 4.02 million. But the suicide rate declined.

    Some believe that government support turned the tide. A study in Sweden from 2010 suggests that countries that adopted generous social welfare programs witnessed declines in suicide rates.

    "Disaster relief payments and other aid measures appear to have had a positive effect on decreasing the suicide rate," the Ministry of Health and Welfare said. But that seems fanciful.

    Park Jong-ik at Kangwon National University Hospital said, "There are many instances during disasters where people are too busy dealing with the bigger crisis or too tired to actually take their own lives. There is a danger that the pandemic stress will kick in two or three years down the road."

    Suicide rates in various countries tend to manifest themselves two years after major disasters, such as the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) epidemics and Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown.

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