1 in 4 Koreans experience mental disorders, but only 10% seek professional help: Survey

A woman walks past a tree decorated with lotus lanterns at Jogye Temple in Seoul.
A woman walks past a tree decorated with lotus lanterns at Jogye Temple in Seoul. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (Korea Herald/Asia News Network) - One in 4 Koreans experience mental disorders more than once in their lifetime, while just one-tenth of the mentally ill seek professional help, government data released on Wednesday (April 12) showed.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare's survey of 5,102 adults showed that about 25 per cent of the respondents have suffered mental disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia and alcohol addiction, at least once in their life.

About 12 per cent had psychiatric illnesses in the past year.

The study noted that an increasing number of people are diagnosed with depression and the disease is more prevalent among women.

About 5 per cent of those surveyed suffered from depression at least once in their lifetime. The proportion is higher among women at 6.9 per cent compared to 3 per cent for men.

One in 10 female respondents had experienced postpartum depression, the study showed.

As for schizophrenia, about 1.8 per cent had the disorder at least once in their life and 0.5 per cent within the past year.

The survey also showed that 75 per cent of those who had attempted suicide and 68 per cent of those who had planned to do so had experienced a metal disorder.

The survey results come after a recent shocking case involving a schizophrenic teenager kidnapping and killing an eight-year-old girl in Incheon. The incident shed light on the country's failure to cope with the growing prevalence of mental disorders.

Experts suggested the government should create an environment where patients of mental disorders can receive timely care and treatment, without fear of being sent to hospitals against their will.

Professor Hong Jin Pyo of Samsung Medical Center who participated in the survey said that "the overall prevalence rate of mental illnesses among Koreans is decreasing compared to previous years," adding that a growing number of psychiatric treatments at clinics may help reduce the rate.

"But compared to developed countries, South Korea still lacks governmental policies to raise awareness and provide treatment for mentally ill people," Hong said.

The South Korean government has been conducting a nationwide in-depth survey into the mental health of South Koreans since 2001. The most recent survey, the fourth of its kind, was conducted from July to November 2016.