Teen suicide has risen in South Korea in the past 10 years to become the number 1 cause of death in 2016.
A report released by Statistics Korea lists the suicide rate per 100,000 aged between 9-24 at 7.8 in 2016, up from 6.0 in 2006.
The corresponding figure was 7.4 in 2003, 10.3 in 2009 and 7.2 in 2015. In 2006, suicide was second to traffic accidents as the highest cause of death among teens.
The nation’s suicide rate has been on the rise since the early 1990s, peaking in 1998 due to the economic downturn. It began declining again slightly afterwards, but since 2000 it has generally been on the rise.
With ongoing pressure to get good grades, many teens suffer depression due to chronic stress; however, the report showed 32.7% of young people admitted to suffering from stress in 2017, a decrease compared to 46.5% a decade ago.
Korean teens often discuss how difficult their lives are as they endure 12-16 hour days at school, as well as economic and social pressures.
“When I go home, I really just want to cry. Of course there are kids who are stronger than me out there, but I think life is just really sad. I just want a break…” — Korean Middle Schooler
According to the report, there were 8.99 million 9-24-year-olds in South Korea last year, accounting for 17.4% of the total population, but this is actually the lowest ratio of young people in the country since 1970.
The number is expected to fall further to 11.1% in 2060. Fewer marriages and a very low birthrate are cited as reasons for the declining age group.
With more exposure and discussion, hopefully the suicide rate among teens will decrease and therefore the number of teens in Korea rise.