Suicides accounted for 54.4% of deaths among S. Koreans in 20s last year

Posted on : 2021-09-29 16:44 KST Modified on : 2021-09-29 16:44 KST
While overall suicide rates are down in the country, the rate of suicide has continued to increase for young people, with women in their 20s seeing a 55.2% increase over the past five years
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The suicide rate for people in their teens through 30s is rising every year.

In a Statistics Korea report released Wednesday on the leading causes of death last year, the suicide rate per 100,000 people was 25.7 people, down 1.2 from the previous year. The overall figure declined mainly thanks to a decline in suicides among older adults.

The suicide rate for people aged 80 or above was nearly halved from 123.3 in 2010 to 62.3 last year. Over the same period, the rate for those in their 70s dropped 53.5% from 83.5 to 38.8, and that for those in their 60s experienced a reduction of 42.9% from 52.7 to 30.1. The rate for those in their 40s and 50s saw a downward trend after peaking in 2009-10.

The most worrying demographic, however, was young people. The report stated that many aged 40 or above were most likely to die from an illness, such as cancer, but suicide was the leading killer of people in their teens to 30s.

Suicide accounted for 41.1% of teen deaths, 54.4% of deaths of people in their 20s, and 39.4% of deaths of people in their 30s. Last year, 3,660 people between the ages of 10 and 30 died from suicide. Suicide was behind nearly three times the number of deaths as cancer (1,292).

While the suicide rate for this age range declined in the early 2010s, it began rising again from 2015-16. From 2015-20, the rate of suicides among teens grew from 4.9 to 6.5, and that of 20-somethings from 16.4 to 21.7, with both figures reflecting a 32.5% upsurge. The number for 30-somethings went up 10% from 24.6 to 27.7.

Lee Mi-won, head of the Korean Youth Counseling and Welfare Institute, said, “Out in the field, counseling on self-harm and suicide for teens has surged. One area reportedly saw the number more than double during the same period.”

“According to the data, the biggest reasons young people consider suicide are academic stress, interpersonal relationships and family problems. Peers or family should help alleviate academic stress, but when that doesn’t happen, suicidal thoughts often emerge,” she said.

One troubling demographic was women in their 20s, who saw a 55.2% surge in suicides over the five-year period. Lee Min-ah, a professor of sociology at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, said, “The fundamental solution is to alleviate gender discrimination in the labor market,” adding, “The solution is to allow young women to safely plan their future without fear of career interruption.”

Last year, Korea had the highest suicide rate among the 38 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with 23.5 per 100,000 people.

By Lee Ji-hye, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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