Figures reveal 1 in 4 20-something South Koreans at risk for depression

Posted on : 2021-05-06 17:07 KST Modified on : 2021-05-06 17:07 KST
In the December survey, 16.98% of respondents in their 20s reported thinking they’d be better off dead or trying to harm themselves over the past two weeks
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Getty Images Bank

“I feel frustrated. I’m frustrated about several things, but the biggest one is about not being able to go outside.”

“I think I’m close to giving up. It really seems like things won’t go back to normal. That idea is reinforced by news articles about how we can’t go back to the way things were before COVID-19.”

These quotes by university students appeared in “The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Psychological Impact on University Students and Coping Factors,” a paper published last year by Noh Sung-dong, a professor at the student counseling center at Mokwon University. These comments vividly convey the feelings of anxiety and resignation caused by COVID-19.

As efforts to cope with the depression and stress caused by the ongoing pandemic emerge as a social issue, researchers say that depression in people in their 20s has reached a dangerous level.

According to figures for April 2021 released by the Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI) on Wednesday, 25.33% of young people aged 19-29 scored at least 10 out of 27 total points on a depression inventory, which categorized them as “at risk” for depression. That was the result of a psychological health survey conducted on 2,063 Korean adults (aged 19-70) by the Korean Society of Traumatic Stress Studies in December 2020. The “at risk” group included 24.16% of respondents in their 30s, 18.67% in their 40s, 18.67% in their 50s, and 13.24% in their 60s and above.

Significantly, 4.58% of respondents aged 19-29 received 20 or more points on the inventory, indicating a “serious” level of depression. That was nearly twice the level among people in their 30s (2.31%). Serious depression was also indicated for 3% of respondents in their 40s, 1.45% in their 50s, and 3.38% in their 60s and above.

Young people aged 19-29 also received a score of 6.36 points on an inventory measuring degree of depressive feelings, which was higher than respondents in their 30s (6.03 points), 40s (5.41), 50s (5.34) and 60s (4.48). The major reasons respondents offered for their feelings of depression were “fatigue,” “lack of interest and joy,” “trouble sleeping,” and “lack of hope.”

In the December survey, 16.98% of respondents in their 20s reported thinking they’d be better off dead or trying to harm themselves over the past two weeks.

“It’s clear that [people in their 20s] feel more depressed and are more likely to fall into the high-risk group than other age groups. Their fear of getting infected is similar to other age groups, but their insecurity and depression are higher. That suggests a need for the government to devise support measures,” wrote Lim Hu-nam, a senior analyst in KEDI’s office of educational indicators, in the report.

But experts say that government agencies haven’t done enough to counteract the “COVID-19 blues” among young people.

“The government is looking to provide vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled with support for anxiety about COVID-19, but there don’t seem to be any plans for helping young people with depression,” Lim said.

By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

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