More than 1 million in Korea were treated for depression last year, a new high

Posted on : 2023-10-04 17:18 KST Modified on : 2023-10-04 17:18 KST
Women in their 20s made up the largest demographic segment of those who were treated for depression in 2022
(Getty Images Bank)
(Getty Images Bank)

The number of people in Korea who sought treatment for depression surpassed 1 million for the first time last year. Women in their 20s made up the largest proportion of those who sought professional help.

The Hankyoreh’s review of a report by the National Health Insurance Service on the number of people being treated for depression in the five years between 2018 and 2022 showed that 1,000,744 people visited hospitals with symptoms of depression (classified as depressive episodes or recurrent depressive disorder). That makes for an increase of 32.9% from 2018, when the figure was 752,976.

The report was provided by the state health insurance corporation to the office of Democratic Party lawmaker Nam In-soon, who serves on the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee, and reviewed by the Hankyoreh on Tuesday.

While numbers showed a consistent upward trend over the past five years, with 790,911 being treated for depression in 2019, 832,378 being treated in 2020, and 915,298 being treated in 2021, last year marked the first time that the figure surpassed the 1 million mark.

Broken down by gender, last year the number of women who were treated for depression (674,555) was more than double the number of men treated for it (326,189).

By age, 18.6% of patients were in their 20s (185,942), while 16% were in their 30s (160,108), 14.3% were in their 60s (143,090), 14.2% were in their 40s (142,086), 12.6% were in their 50s (126,453), were 11.1% in their 70s (110,883), and 7.1% were 80 or older (71,021).

When age and gender are taken together, women in their 20s made up the largest demographic segment to receive treatment for depression. Last year a total of 121,534 women in their 20s sought treatment for depression — 12.1% of all patients who sought professional help for the mood disorder. That makes for a 110.7% upsurge from the figure for 2018, when 57,696 women in their 20s were treated for depression.

“Women in their 20s have a higher rate of being in service or other vulnerable occupations, and there’s a possibility that the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic could have had an effect on depression,” commented Lee Hae-kook, a professor of psychiatry at the Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine.

“Anyone experiencing feelings of depression that are interfering with their everyday life, such as feeling depressed for two weeks or more at a time, suffering severe insomnia, or having recurring thoughts of suicide, should consult with a medical professional,” Lee advised.

By Kim Yoon-ju, staff reporter

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