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S. Korea’s suicide mortality rate on decline for all age groups, except in 20s

One in 2 deaths of Koreans in 20s by suicide in 2017

South Korea’s suicide mortality rates across all age groups have been steadily declining since a 2011 peak, except for people in their 20s, data showed Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare and Korea Suicide Prevention Center said Tuesday the country’s overall suicide death toll in 2017 had decreased by 4.8 percent from 2016’s 13,092. This marked a notable decline from 2011’s 15,906 -- down by 3,443 to 12,463 in 2017 -- when the suicide toll reached its highest on record since the government began tracking data in 1987. 

Korea Suicide Prevention Center in Jung-gu, central Seoul (Yonhap)
Korea Suicide Prevention Center in Jung-gu, central Seoul (Yonhap)

Suicide mortality rate, defined as the number of deaths by suicide per 100,000 people, decreased in all age groups save for those aged 20-29, remaining unchanged at 16.4 in both 2016 and 2017, according to the organizations. Suicide was the leading cause of death for Koreans in their 20s, accounting for 44.8 percent of deaths.

The rate of attempted self-injury or suicide was also the highest in the age group. Of all patients hospitalized for self-injury or suicide attempts, 21 percent were 20-29 years of age, comprising the largest portion.

Korean National Police Agency’s 2017 statistics shows that psychological or psychiatric problems were the most commonly cited reasons for suicide for people aged 21-30 (40.1 percent), followed by financial difficulties (22 percent) and relationship troubles (10 percent).

South Korea’s suicide rate ranked No. 1 among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member states for 13 years since 2005, stepping down to 2nd place for the first time in 2018. Lithuania had the highest rate last year.

Chang Young-jin, the Health Ministry’s suicide prevention policy director, said at a press conference Tuesday the government will work closely with authorities to follow through on a suicide prevention action plan devised in January last year. He also noted that while Korea had a lower suicide mortality rate on-year in 2017, the rate still remains among the highest in the OECD.

The government’s Suicide Prevention White Paper, published annually since 2014, releases suicide statistics from two years back, collected from the National Police Agency, Central Emergency Medical Center and Statistics Korea the previous year.

By Kim Arin (
Korea Herald Youtube