Korea sees a spike in depression, bipolar disorder

Lee Han-soo  Published 2019.09.11  15:16  Updated 2019.09.11 15:16


The number of depression and bipolar disorder patients is steadily increasing in Korea as the number of patients suffering from the two diseases increased by about 30 percent from 2013 to 2018.

According to a report released by the National Health Insurance Service, depression increased 28.6 percent from 584,949 in 2013 to 752,211 in 2018, and bipolar disorder increased 26.6 percent from 75,656 in 2014 to 95,785 in 2018.

The 2018 figures showed that there were twice as many female patients (66.5 percent) suffering from depression than male patients (33.5 percent).

By age, patients in their 60s had the highest population for depression with 17 percent, followed by 50s (16.2 percent), 70s (15.6 percent), 40s (13.3 percent), 20s (13 percent), 30s (12 percent) and 80s (7.8 percent). The percentage of adolescent patients suffering from depression was the lowest among the age group with 4.9 percent.

However, in terms of the number of patients per population of 100,000, patients over the age of 60 had the highest number of patients with 3,837 people in their 80s, followed by 3,606 people in their 70s and 2,223 people in their 60s.

The female population also surpassed the male population in the number of patients for bipolar disorder in 2018 with the women accounting for 59 percent against men’s 41 percent.

By age, patients in their 20s had the highest share of depression with 17.8 percent, followed by 40s (16.9 percent), 30s (16.5 percent), 50s (15.7 percent), 60s (12.1 percent), 70s (8.7 percent), 80s (7.5 percent) and teenagers (4.4 percent).

In terms of the number of patients per 100,000 people, patients in their 80s had a whopping 468 patients, while other age groups mostly remained around 200 patients.

"It is very worrying that a growing number of people are treated for depression and bipolar disorder in all age groups," said Rep. Nam In-soon of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea. "The nation needs a strong system that can actively treat such illnesses."

The government needs to play a role in reducing environmental factors affecting mental health, such as jobs, housing problems, discrimination and violence, Nam added.

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