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No. of depression patients surpasses 1m in Korea: data

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : Jan. 10, 2024 - 15:08

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The number of patients with depression in Korea surpassed the 1-million mark in 2022, data showed Wednesday.

According to data released by the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, the number of patients treated for depression has increased every year in the past five years. In 2018, 753,011 patients were treated for depression, 799,038 patients in 2019, 832,329 patients in 2020 and 915,294 patients in 2021. In 2022, the number surpassed the 1 million mark for the first time, recording 1,000,032 -- a 32.8 percent jump from 2018.

With the increased number of patients, the money spent on treatments for depression in hospitals rose by a total of 537.8 billion won ($407 million) in 2022. This is a surge of over 60 percent since 2018. The average money an individual has spent on treatment stood at 538,000 won.

Women suffered from depression more than men, with the number of female patients recording more than double the number of male patients. According to the data, 674,050 women were treated for depression in 2022, compared to 325,982 men.

Considering the intersection of gender and age, the group with the highest number of depression patients was women in their 20s, with 194,200 patients in 2022. Women in their 30s were next, recording 164,942 patients, followed by women in their 60s (149,365) and women in their 40s (146,842).

"Women are more prone to depression. The depression rate is two to three times higher in women worldwide. One reason could be linked to female hormonal fluctuations. But there are also social reasons in regard to discrimination," Jon Duk-in, professor of psychiatry at Hallym University Medical Center, told The Korea Herald.

"Women face invisible discrimination in society, such as the glass ceiling. Women in their 20s and 30s are more engaged in social activities, including seeking jobs and working, making them more vulnerable to stress," Jon added.

The expert also pointed out that men are less likely to seek medical treatment when suffering from depression.

"Another reason men are shown to have lower rates of depression is because they neglect treatment. Women seem to (be more open to) recognizing their symptoms and visiting hospitals for treatment."

As depression can be linked to suicide and suicide attempts, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration has rolled out preemptive measures as part of a comprehensive plan to offer mental health checkups every two years for young Koreans aged 20 to 34, as well as other counseling services tailored to all age groups.

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If you’re thinking about self-harm or suicide, contact the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s helpline at 109, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please request a translator for English-language services.