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1 out of 7 teenagers thought of suicide: data

40% of students under severe stress; suicide attempts higher in girls

Dec. 10, 2023 - 15:18 By Choi Jeong-yoon
(Getty Image)

The rate of South Korean teenagers who had thought of suicide recently has been on the rise, with some 1 in 7 students now having considered taking their own lives.

Of some 50,000 middle and high school students asked across the nation in 2022, 14.3 percent have thought of suicide over the past 12 months, according to a survey released by the Korea Center for Disease and Prevention Agency on Sunday.

First conducted in 2005, the rate had exceeded the 20 percent mark in its first three years, but fell below that threshold in 2008, and had maintained a downward trend. In 2020, it hit an all-time low of 10.9 percent, but it has markedly risen for the last two years.

Among the students, those in the eighth grade -- around the time many teenagers experience puberty -- saw the highest rate of suicidal thoughts, topping the chart with a 15.8 percent rate.

Meanwhile, female students experienced a heightened level of vulnerability, with 17.9 percent considering suicide as an option — considerably higher than for male students, which stood at 10.9 percent.

The results came along with over 40 percent of respondents saying they suffered from an “immense amount” of stress daily.

Almost 30 percent of students complained of depression, saying they felt sad and hopeless to the point that they had halted maintaining their daily lives for at least two weeks in the past year.

In the first half of 2023, 197 teens took their own lives, marking an 18 percent increase from the previous year, according to data released by the Korea Foundation for Suicide Prevention in September. Among these cases, 108 were female students, representing a 48 percent surge compared to the same period last year when 73 girls took their own lives.

Korea faces disrepute for having the highest suicide rate among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Some 25.2 out of every 100,000 people took their own lives last year, more than double the OECD average, which stands at 10.6. Korea has held the top position since 2003.

To combat the country’s high suicide rates, the government outlined a set of countermeasures last week, including expanding mental health care and making suicide prevention education mandatory.

The government unveiled its plans to lower its rates to the OECD average within the next 10 years earlier this month.

For elementary, middle and high school students, the country intends to strengthen the system for early detection of mental health problems, while increasing measures for counseling support, such as implementing social networks as one of its communication tools.

Authorities have also rolled out plans to increase the number of counselors who stay close to teens’ lives and strengthen their expertise on mental health crises of the youth, such as suicide and self-harm, depression and anxiety. The Youth Counseling and Welfare Center currently has 1,398 counselors.


If you’re thinking about self-harm or suicide, contact the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s helpline at 1393, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please request a translator for English-language services.