Covid blues are real and exacerbate mental health trend
Koreans visited psychiatrists more in 2020 and other types of medical professionals less, suggesting that the Covid blues were real and that many people deferred treatment for conditions that could wait.
The number of people visiting psychiatrists in the first half of the last year increased by 9.9 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, based on data by the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service.
Depression and sleep disorders were the main complaints.
The number of people who visited psychiatrists rose fast in February, when a cluster formed among members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu.
The number of men in their 20s who visited psychiatrists rose by 13.7 percent year-on-year, while the number of women in that age group visiting psychiatrists increased 21.7 percent.
Among people in their 30s, the number of men visiting psychiatrists grew by 12.3 percent on year, while for women the figure was 13 percent.
The number of Koreans who visited other medical departments declined as they became reluctant to go to hospitals due to concerns over the virus.
The number of people who visited pediatric units decreased by 35.9 percent in the first half of last year compared to the previous year. During the same period, visitors to otolaryngology departments declined by 24.5 percent, while people who visited obstetrics and gynecology departments decreased by 6.1 percent.
The Korea Insurance Research Institute predicts that more people will suffer from mental illness as long as the pandemic continues.
“The strengthened and prolonged social distancing guidelines are deeply related to people's mental health such as high stress levels, depression and sleep disorders,” said Kim Dong-gyum, a researcher at the Korea Insurance Research Institute. “More people are suffering from fear and anxiety about Covid-19 even when they have minor symptoms as usual. The situation is most evident for elderly people.”
The secular trend also suggests a long-term rise in mental illness.
In 2015, about 2.51 million people visited hospitals due to mental disorders, but that increased to 3.22 million as of 2019. That’s an average yearly increase of 6.2 percent.
During that same period, the yearly rate of increase for men who experienced mental disorders was about 5.9 percent, while for women it was some 6.5 percent.
By types of illnesses, the top four mental disorders people suffered were anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and dementia.
Men in their 20s suffered most from depression, while those aged 30 to 60 suffered from anxiety. Women aged 10 to 40 suffered most from depression, while those in 50s suffered from anxiety and those in 70s dementia.
“Considering that face-to-face contact is unavailable at the moment due to the pandemic, it is essential that people get treatment for their mental health via apps or online,” Kim added.
BY CHEA SARAH, AHN HYO-SUNG [email@example.com]