Young, unemployed and depressed in the pandemic

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Young, unemployed and depressed in the pandemic

 
Young Koreans are suffering from depression largely due to the lack of job opportunities and concerns over the future amid the Covid-19 pandemic.  
 
According to a report by Union Center, which interviewed 596 job seekers aged 29 and under, their average depression level was 23.2. People with a score of 16 to 20 are suffering from mild depression. Those scoring 21 to 24 have serious depression, while people with a score 25 or higher are going through severe depression. All who received a score of 16 or above are advised to go for counselling.  
 
The Union Center is a counseling center run by the Youth Community Union, a labor union representing the young.
 
Some 84.6 percent of respondents said “job seeking” was mainly to blame for their depression, while roughly 68.8 percent said concerns about “making a living” is to blame. Multiple answers were allowed.
 
 
A 25-year-old woman said she has been suffering from helplessness and depression since she was fired from her job in November last year.  
 
To reduce living expenses, she eats samgak gimbap (triangle-shaped gimbap), and ramyeon these days. She has even been avoiding meeting with her friends.  
 
“Currently I’m financially dependent on my younger sister, and I feel very sorry about her,” She said. “I have no income as I don’t have a job. This depression lasts so long because I get so stressed out.”  
 
The longer they suffer, the higher their depression level, the report said.  
 
The average depression level of young people who have been seeking jobs for less than six months was 21.7, while the score of people who have been looking for jobs for about six months to one year was 23.7. The average score for those who have been looking for jobs longer than that was 25.9.  
 
The type of universities they go to or have graduated from also mattered.  
 
The average depression score of the respondents who went to four-year universities in Seoul was 22.6, while that of people who are from two- to three-year community colleges was 25.  
 
“I am anxious because I feel like I can’t take care of my own life in the future,” an interviewee told Union Center.  
 
More people visited hospitals due to their mental illness last year.
 
According to data from the National Health Insurance Service, 1.02 million people visited hospitals last year due to mood disorders — mental health problem that influences people’s emotional state. Depression is the most common types of mood disorder.
 
Of them, roughly 171,000 were people in their 20s, up 20.9 percent from the previous year.  
 
This is also the first time the number of depressed people who are in their 20s exceeded that of people in 60s. About 164,400 people in their 60s visited hospitals due to the mood disorders last year.  
 
A 28-year-old job seeker, who has been looking for a job over a year, visited a psychiatrist late last year for the first time in his life.  
 
“I used to have very dynamic personality, but one day I found myself living life completely dejected, addicted to computer games,” the man said. “Upon my parent’s suggestion, I went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with depression. I’ve been taking pills and having regular consultations with psychiatrists.”  
 
Medical experts say Covid-19 pandemic is the one of the biggest reasons for the growing number of young people who are suffering from depression. Twenties is the time period that young people find their jobs and map out their life plans, but the pandemic’s huge impact on the economy and labor market has destroyed hope.  
 
“Young people’s depression after Covid-19 is not just a problem in Korea, it’s a worldwide issue,” said psychiatry professor Paik Jong-woo at Kyunghee University, who also served as head of Korea Suicide Prevention Center. “The economic uncertainties and risk of losing jobs caused by Covid-19 are so traumatic for young people who are already going through a tough time due to the future uncertainties."  
 
“Strengthened social guidelines are another reason. Young people are left with nothing to relieve their stress as they are forced to stay home and not have gatherings with their friends often during the pandemic,” Paik added. “The country must come up with some measures to help young people so that they can feel protected and somehow connected to other people and with society.”  
 
BY SOHN HAE-YONG, CHEA SARAH   [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
 

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