We have previously written about South Korea’s Alzheimer’s challenge.  However, a new report by researchers at Hallym University highlights a new challenge: a growing rate of elderly suicides.  According to the report’s findings “the suicide ratio for those aged over 65 jumped to 77 per 100,000 population in 2009, an over five-fold surge from 14 recorded in 1990. The surge is much higher than the suicide rate for the 15-34 age group that recorded about nine people per 100,000 in 2009, down from 23 in 1990.”

Kim Dong-hyun, the study’s main author, believes the reason for the increase in suicides in the growing economic hardship for Korean seniors.  He says: “[a]s our society has polarized since 2000, seniors who have lost their economic power have found it hard to stand on their own feet … I think sick and isolated elderly who have no regular income are making extreme decisions so as not to add burden on their children in this nuclear, aging society.”

According to the Yonhap News Agency, South Korea currently “ranks first in the suicide rate among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with 24.3 people out of every 100,000 having taken their own lives in 2008.”  Taken together with a report by Statistics Korea which estimates that “the ratio of those aged 65 or older to the nation’s total population will likely grow to 38.2 percent in 2050,” these rates could translate into a great increase of elderly suicides over the next few daces.  Kim says: “[a]s a considerable number of seniors faces aging without much preparation, senior suicides can become a social disaster in the future.”

Share your thoughts on this report with IAHSA.  What steps can be taken to decrease elderly suicides in South Korea?  Have you observed a similar phenomenon in your community?

For more information:

Yonhap News Agency