50% Rise in Suicide Attempts Among 20s Within 5 Years
In the past five years, self-harm and suicide attempts among people in their 20s have increased by nearly 50%. The increase is attributed to deteriorating mental health in the youth demographic compounded by issues such as social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and job insecurity.
According to the ‘2021-2022 Emergency Room Self-Harm and Suicide Attempt Status’ recently published by the National Central Medical Center and Central Emergency Medical Center, out of 7,694,472 emergency room users in 2022, 43,268 cases were self-harm or suicide attempts (15,675 men and 27,593 women).
In 2022, the number of self-harm and suicide attempts per 100,000 population was 84.4. Women had a higher rate at 107.3, compared to 61.4 for men. By age group, the highest numbers were seen in the 20s (12,432) followed by teens (7,540), and then those in their 30s (671). The proportion of attempts among those aged 10 to 20 accounted for 46% of the total. The rate of self-harm and suicide attempts per 100,000 population was highest in the 20s (190.8), followed by teens (160.5), and those in their 30s (91.5).
In particular, self-harm and suicide attempts among teenagers and those in their 20s have surged in recent years. The number of teenagers who attempted self-harm or suicide increased by 68.9% over five years from 95.0 per 100,000 population in 2018 to 160.5 in 2022. Over the same period, the rate among those in their 20s jumped by 49.5%, from 127.6 to 190.8.
In terms of the condition of those who attempted self-harm or suicide, addiction (including alcohol poisoning) was the most common across all age groups.
Experts attribute the increase to a rise in the number of young people struggling with severed interpersonal relationships due to the COVID-19 pandemic and severe job insecurity caused by the economic downturn.
Professor Lee Hae-guk of the Department of Mental Health at Uijeongbu St. Mary’s Hospital diagnosed that “As we go through the COVID-19 pandemic, the relationship with the outside world has been severed while the time spent on digital media like SNS has increased leading to relative poverty, increased depression due to a decrease in self-esteem, and other factors working in complex ways.”
Professor Lee suggested, “These individuals need to have a system where they can easily receive counseling in their communities including schools and this should lead to providing treatment opportunities for high-risk groups,” and added, “We need to significantly increase the number of first-line counselors to listen to their stories and start solving the problem from there.”
By. Hwan Hyuk Ji