Suicide grows among South Korea's elderly

Every year, there are about 16,000 suicides in South Korea – nearly 44 per day, on average – placing the East Asian country second in the world for suicide rates.

But as reported by the New York Times, it was one suicide in August of last year that made headlines across this country of 50 million people, when a 78 year-old woman drank pesticide in front of city hall to protest the government’s austerity measures which meant a stoppage of welfare checks.

02-18 koreaAccording to the newspaper, while South Korea has enjoyed incredible economic successes since the Korean War, one of the consequences of that growth has been millions of younger people leaving rural areas for bigger cities, and often their aging adults have been left behind, with little money or family support to help them. Over the last few years, the suicide rate among South Korea’s seniors aged 65 and older has jumped dramatically.

“The family was always an extended self,” Park Ji-young, a social welfare professor at Sangji University, told the newspaper. “Children were everything they had for their future — for health care, financial support and a comfortable life in old age.”

As a result of their children’s exodus to large urban areas, even the seniors who require additional assistance in daily living are often not able to find suitable assisted living communities in South Korea.

What do you think can be done to provide a suitable living environment for South Korea’s elderly? Tell us about it in the comment section below: