The number of South Koreans with disabilities jumped by more than half a million in six years due mainly to a rise in the country’s elderly population, whose age-related diseases often lead to a disability, a report showed Wednesday.
As of the end of last year, 2.68 million people, or 5.61 percent of the entire population, had disabilities, up 535,000 from the 2.15 million tallied in 2005, the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA) said in the report. Compared with the 1.45 million tallied in 2000, the disabled population has nearly doubled.
The state-run institute under the health ministry said the spike was largely attributable to an increase in the number of the elderly whose age-related illnesses developed into an acquired disability.
“In line with the country’s fast-aging population, the number of people who acquired disabilities as a result of their old age has gone up as well,” said Kim Seong-hee, a researcher at KIHASA.
“Considering the fact that 91 percent of all disabilities are acquired later in life from accidents or illnesses, there is a need to encourage people to prevent such cases via early diagnosis and treatment of chronic disorder.
Senior citizens above 65 years of age accounted for 38.8 percent of the overall disabled population, followed by those aged between 50 and 64 at 32.1 percent, according to KIHASA.
The overall ratio of the elderly is rapidly rising as well. As of September, nearly 12 percent of South Korea’s population was aged 65 or older, and the figure is forecast to reach 24.3 percent in 2030 and 37.4 percent in 2050.