South Korea's suicide rate declines, but not among elderly

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea has one of the highest rates of suicide in the OECD group of nations. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
South Korea has one of the highest rates of suicide in the OECD group of nations. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 11 (UPI) -- South Korea has the highest suicide rate among the elderly in the developed world, even as overall suicide rates in the country are on the decline.

South Korean senior citizens, age 65 or older, are more likely to take their own lives than in any other country in the industrialized world. According to a white paper on suicide prevention from Seoul's health ministry and the center for suicide prevention, issued Tuesday, the suicide rate of the elderly was 47.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, the most recent data available, Newsis reported.


The number has declined since 2011, but is more than three times the OECD average, and 1.5 times higher than Slovenia, the country that ranks second among elderly suicides in the club of rich and developed nations.

Asia's fourth-largest economy has previously occupied the No. 1 position in overall suicides in the OECD, but the most recent data shows South Korea ranks second after Lithuania.

Overall suicide rates began to decline after 2011, but the rate for twenty-something South Koreans has remained steady in the same period. More than half of suicide victims were either not in the workforce, or unemployed, according to the government white paper.


A total of 12,463 people committed suicide in 2017, down 4.8 percent from the previous year. Cause of suicide differed by age group, and the No. 1 cause for death for victims ranging from age 30 to 59 was financial troubles.

Financial problems are increasingly playing a role in domestic violence, which is escalating, according to local authorities.

Seoul-based Asia Business reported Tuesday cases of domestic violence have doubled in seven years in South Korea, citing data from the national police agency.

Kwak Dae-kyung, a professor in the police administration department of Dongguk University, said families are increasingly fighting over inheritance or money.

High-profile domestic violence cases in South Korea have included fratricide in a coffee shop and the murder of a remarried ex-spouse and their new partner.

South Korean experts say the nuclear family is to blame, according to the report, referring to the demise of the old social structure, including the large extended family, and the role it played in resolving domestic disputes.

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