Depression, suicide, and Korean society

Mihee Nam, Dae Seog Heo, Tae Yeon Jun, Min Soo Lee, Maeng Je Cho, Changsu Han, Min Kyung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The number of Korean people who are currently suffering from depressive disorders that require medical treatment is assumed to be more than 2 million. However, only around 15% of those with depressive disorder are actively receiving medical treatment, and this leads to an increasing suicide rate. Hence, the National Evidence-based Healthcare Collaborating Agency held a round-table conference to provide information on depression and suicide and suggested a reasonable policy through comprehensive discussion with experts. The prevalence of depression, which is closely related to suicide rates, is lower in Korea than in the U.S., but the rate of suicide is the highest among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. It is thought that the underestimated prevalence of depression is owing to the inconsistency between the diagnostic criteria of depression and characteristics of depression in Korea. Therefore, it is necessary to develop Korean diagnostic criteria for depression reflecting cultural characteristics and conduct a regular and organized nationwide survey. Moreover, a term related to suicide officially used by Statistics Korea is 'intentional self-injury'. However, in a Korea-based community study, it was found that 60% to 72% of those attempting suicide had mental disorders; thus suicide is not merely an intentional self-injury but a medical condition that should be treated. To reduce suicide, both medical and social approaches are necessary. Furthermore, a strengthening of the public perception that a medical approach is important for suicide prevention is greatly needed. Moreover, it is necessary to prepare an effective national suicide prevention strategy through studies evaluating the suicide prevention policies currently implemented and psychological autopsy of suicide deaths similar to those practiced in Finland.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-361
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the Korean Medical Association
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Korea
  • Prevention
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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