Suicide rates among people aged 60 and over in Korea have risen steadily over the last four years, a report showed Thursday.
A total of 5,151 elderly people took their own lives in 2011, up nearly 28 percent from 4,029 in 2008, according to National Police Agency data released by Rep. Kim Hyun of the Democratic Party.
The report showed that the total number of suicides in Korea has also risen steadily from 12,270 in 2008 to 14,722 in 2009, 14,779 in 2010 and 15,681 in 2011.
Of the total 57,452 people who killed themselves during the period, 32 percent, or 18,798, were senior citizens aged 60 or older ― the highest among all age groups, and much higher than the 1,608 of those aged 20 and below.
Although suicide rates are growing among both men and women, far more men take their own lives, accounting for more than 68 percent of the total suicides in 2011, the report said.
“The data shows that there’s a serious problem with our aging society,” Rep. Kim said.
According to Statistics Korea, seniors aged 65 and above represented 11 percent of the population last year, but the figure is set to reach 14.3 percent in 2018. And the country will enter a super-aged society in 2026, where seniors aged 65 or above will make up more than 20 percent of the population.
“With (Korea) entering into a super-aged society, it’s urgent that the government introduce measures at the national level to address a lost sense of belonging and the financial hardships of retired senior citizens,” she added.
Korea has the highest suicide rate among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with an average of 33.3 people per 100,000 taking their lives in 2011.
The government announced that it would set up a suicide prevention committee designed to launch campaigns and events to raise public awareness about the issue. The government also plans to seek an agreement with media outlets to ask them to refrain from reporting details about suicide cases.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)