Rising suicide rates, loneliness put Koreans’ life satisfaction among lowest in OECD

Posted on : 2023-02-21 18:18 KST Modified on : 2023-02-21 18:18 KST
Suicide rates among those in their 20s and 70s have increased rapidly

New figures show that South Koreans have one of the lowest life satisfaction rates among the 38 countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Suicide rates have also gone up in the country while the proportion of people saying they have nowhere to turn for help in a crisis has also soared. In addition, the number of older Koreans living alone has also risen while the rate of reported child abuse has also significantly increased.

According to a report titled “Quality of Life Indicators in Korea 2022” published by Statistics Korea on Monday, the life satisfaction rate of South Koreans in 2021 was 6.3 points out of 10, up 0.3 points compared to the previous year.

However, those belonging to lower income groups earning less than 1 million won (US$772) per month recorded a life satisfaction score of 5.5 points, 0.8 points below average.

The level of satisfaction that Koreans feel with their lives scores near the bottom compared to other countries.

According to the 2022 World Happiness Report published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a non-profit created by the UN, South Korea’s “happiness score” — that is, overall life satisfaction — was 5.9 points on average between 2019 and 2021. This figure is significantly lower than the OECD average, which stands at 6.7 points.

The only other OECD countries with a lower happiness score than Korea were Türkiye (4.7 points) and Colombia (5.8 points).

South Korea’s suicide rate and satisfaction levels with leisure life — issues that have a close correlation to overall life satisfaction — have also been getting worse.

In 2021, the suicide rate in South Korea stood at 26.0 per 100,000 people, up 0.3 compared to the previous year. The rate particularly increased for those in their 20s, from 21.7 in 2020 to 23.5 in 2021. Similarly, the suicide rate for those in their 70s increased from 38.8 to 41.8 over the same time period.

Satisfaction with one’s leisure life also decreased by 1.8 percentage points from 28.8% in 2019 to 27% in 2021. Notably, while 47.9% of teenagers were satisfied with their leisure life, the figure for those aged 60 and older stood at a mere 18.8%.

Related is the increase in the proportion of people aged 65 and up living alone. As of 2022, the figure stood at 20.8%, up 0.2 percentage points compared to the previous year.

Meanwhile, the rate of those experiencing child abuse has also gone up. In 2021, this figure stood at 502.2 per 100,000 children, up over 100 cases compared to the recorded figure of 401.6 for 2020. The number of child abuse cases in the country has continued to rise continuously since 2001, when the figure stood at only 17.7 cases per 100,000 people.

"The number of cases of child abuse is counted as the number of reports received concerning child abuse, so it is not clear whether the actual number of child abuse cases has increased or if the reporting itself has increased,” Statistics Korea explained.

Regarding gross national income (GNI) per capita, the figure improved slightly, but levels of household debt worsened. In 2021, the per capita GNI was 39.49 million won (US$30,500), an increase of 1.79 million won compared to the previous year.

However, the ratio of total household debt to disposable income increased by 8.7 percentage points compared to the previous year to reach 206.5% in 2021. The household debt ratio of South Korean households has been consistently increasing over the past 13 years since 2008, when the figure stood at 138.5%.

By Lee Ji-hye, staff reporter

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

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles