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[Newsmaker] More Koreans suffer mental disorders amid pandemic

Independent lawmaker Lee Yong-ho (Rep. Lee Yong-ho’s office)
Independent lawmaker Lee Yong-ho (Rep. Lee Yong-ho’s office)


The number of Koreans who have suffered from mental disorders and eating disorders has risen in the pandemic, data showed Sunday.

Last year, the number of people diagnosed with either depression, insomnia, anorexia or bulimia stood at 1,504,181, up by 67,233, or 4.67 percent, from the previous year, according to government data. The data, from the state-run Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, was disclosed by independent lawmaker Lee Yong-ho.

Depression accounted for 55.7 percent of all cases, while those suffering from insomnia stood at 43.8 percent. Those who were dealing with anorexia and bulimia took up 0.5 percent.

The rise in the number of people with anorexia was the highest among all four conditions at 14.3 percent.

Overall, women outnumbered men, taking up 64 percent of the total. The increase in women (48,892) between 2019 and 2020 was double the increase in men (20,411).

Among those with depression, the growth rate of women in their 20s was the highest at 31.7 percent on-year. For both men and women, the surge in cases of depression among people in their 20s and 30s was higher than that of other age groups.

Rep. Lee pointed out that the public mental health issues and eating disorders should no longer be taken as personal problems or temporary symptoms caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“As the coronavirus continues and controlled daily life prolongs, the mental health of many Koreans is being devastated,” Lee said. “Depression, insomnia and eating disorders will spread to all ages as the pandemic continues to rage.”

Last December, the government classified “coronavirus depression” as a disease code in the national health system. But they have not done enough to understand the overall state of people’s mental health in the course of the pandemic, Lee said.

“The government should not let their guard down in defending public mental health. It should take practical measures to prevent severe depression caused by the coronavirus by conducting a public mental health survey and preparing medical support measures for the diseases.”

Compared to 2016, there has been an increase of 311,879 people receiving treatment for the four disorders.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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