S. Korea hit hardest by COVID-19 blues among OECD nations

Posted on : 2021-05-25 16:43 KST Modified on : 2021-05-25 16:43 KST
Anxiety, depression and anguish are rising around the world in the wake of COVID-19
Getty Images Bank
Getty Images Bank

A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says that rates of anxiety and depression have almost doubled since COVID-19 spread across the world.

In Korea, the proportion of people who feel depressed or have depression after COVID-19 amounted to 36.8%, the highest figure among the 15 countries surveyed.

The report, released on May 12, notes that the global incidence of anxiety and depression nearly doubled from the previous year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. After remaining largely unchanged for 10 years, the rate of people suffering from mental health conditions in countries around the world started to rise around the time the pandemic began.

On the one hand, the mental health risk factors stemming from COVID-19 such as economic instability and unemployment have become more pronounced, while the social interactions and opportunities for employment, education and exercise that could offset these risks have disappeared from our daily lives.

While a lack of pre-pandemic data in Korea prevents a comparison of the situation before and after the pandemic, the incidence of mental disorders in Korea in the first half of 2020 was markedly higher than in other countries.

The graph shows national estimates of prevalence of anxiety or symptoms of anxiety in early 2020 and in a year prior to 2020. (OECD screenshot)
The graph shows national estimates of prevalence of anxiety or symptoms of anxiety in early 2020 and in a year prior to 2020. (OECD screenshot)

In Korea, 29.5% of the population presented anxiety symptoms or had an anxiety disorder, while 36.8% presented depressive symptoms or had depression, the highest level of any of the countries surveyed.

Countries that saw a similarly large increase in the percentage of people with anxiety symptoms or an anxiety disorder included Mexico (15% to 50%), the UK (19% to 39%), the US (8.2% to 30.8%), and France (13.5% to 26.7%).

Countries that saw a similarly large increase in the percentage of people with depressive symptoms or depression included Sweden (10.8% to 30%), Mexico (3% to 27.6%), and Australia (10.4% to 27.6%).

The Commonwealth Fund carried out this survey on behalf of the OECD in March and April 2020. The timing and method of the survey varied with each country.

Analysts believe the incidence of mental disorders was impacted by the severity of disease control measures and the number of COVID-19 fatalities in each country. Employment insecurity, poor education, and low income were also highly correlated with greater psychological suffering during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Mental health support was weakly integrated in social welfare, labour and youth policies before the crisis,” the report said. “There is an urgent need to deliver stronger, more integrated policies to support mental health.”

By Lee Ji-hye, staff reporter

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

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