Suicide rate dropped a bit in 2020, but not enough
Even after the decline, the suicide rate remains the highest among members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Korea has had the highest suicide rate in the OECD every year since 2003 except in 2016 and 2017 when Lithuania topped the list.
In an annual report compiled with the Korea Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Health Ministry said that fewer people were found to have committed suicide in the year 2020 despite concerns of the “corona blues,” a sense of depression or anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ministry officials told local reporters that the “nation’s unity” to fight the coronavirus appears to have helped people overcome their inner insecurities. Officials, however, warned that the suicide rate tends to climb two to three years after a nation undergoes a crisis or disaster.
According to ministry statistics, a total of 13,195 people committed suicide in 2020, down 4.4 percent from 2019. The suicide rate, which is defined by the number of suicidal deaths per 100,000 persons, was 25.7 in 2020, down 4.4 percent from 2019.
Suicides in Korea peaked in 2011 when 15,906 people died that year of their own accord; the suicide rate that year was 31.7.
The Health Ministry said the nation’s age-standardized suicide rate – the suicide rate it would have if it had an OECD standard age structure – was 24.5 in 2020, more than double that of the OECD’s average of 11 in 2019. OECD figures for 2020 have yet to be released.
More Korean men committed suicide than women in 2020. Among total deaths, 68.9 percent were male, while the rest were female.
But Health Ministry officials said more women appear to have attempted suicide than men. A total of 21,176 cases involving women who tried – but failed – to commit suicide were counted in nationwide hospital emergency rooms, while the corresponding figure for men was 13,729.
The largest number of suicides were among people in their 50s, followed by people in their 40s and 60s. The highest suicide rates were among people in their 80s, followed by people in their 70s.
Compared to 2019, the suicide rate dropped in all age groups except in teens, which rose 9.4 percent year on year; people in their 20s, which rose 12.8 percent; and people in their 30s, which rose 0.7 percent.
For Korean men in their teens and 20s, the main reason for committing suicide was mental stress, while men in their 30s through 50s committed suicide due to financial reasons, the ministry said in the report.
The key reason for women committing suicide was the same across all age groups – mental stress.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, YI WOO-RIM [email@example.com]