The Korea Herald


4 out of 10 young adults forgo health care

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : Feb. 13, 2024 - 15:38

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More than 4 out of 10 young adults in South Korea have been unable to go to the hospital when they were sick because they were too busy or did not have enough money, a recent study showed.

A report on young adult poverty and self-reliance released by the National Youth Policy Institute on Tuesday found that 41.6 percent of 4,000 young adults aged 19 to 34 said they had been unable to go to the hospital when they should have in the past year.

The most common reason for not being able to go see the doctor was due to lack of time, accounting for over 47 percent of the responses. This was followed by the burden of medical expenses, of which 33.7 percent said they "felt it was a waste to spend money on treatments." Another 9.3 percent opted for nonprescription pharmaceuticals over a visit to see a doctor.

Similarly, 4 out of 10 respondents felt the medical expenses were a burden, considering the extent to which it eats into their total living expenses. In particular, more than half of young adults had not had a health checkup at a hospital, health checkup center or public health center in the past year.

In response, 50.6 percent of the survey participants cited "expanding free health checkups for those in their 20s and 30s" as a top priority among major health support policies.

"Expanding support for youth medical expenses" (32.8 percent) was selected as the most urgent government policy for youth health, while "expanding support for psychological counseling for young adults" (28.9 percent) and "expanding health checkups for young adults" (24.4 percent) followed.

Young Korean adults also struggled to get help from friends and family.

Some 15 percent said they "don't have anyone they can turn to for help" when they are sick. Even among those who said they did, more than half said they had not gotten help from anyone in the past year.

Koreans in their 20s and 30s grappled with loneliness.

Some 13.2 percent said they had "no one to turn to emotionally," while 16.4 percent answered they had "not met anyone personally in the past month."

Meanwhile, 9 out of 10 people reported eating alone and 3 out of 10 reported drinking alone in the past month.

In addition, 57.8 percent of young adults reported feeling depressed and 37.1 percent had experienced suicidal thoughts.

"It is necessary to strongly promote health checkups for young adults and come up with measures to support medical expenses for youths in need," the report said. "Building customized health policies according to age group, gender, unemployment status, region, etc. is also critical."