Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Depression Among Koreans

Dear Korean,

What is the prevalence of depression among Koreans?

White Hispanic Chica

Dear White Hispanic Chica,

THANK YOU for asking a question that takes less than 10 minutes to find an answer for. It has been so long.

According to this article at Herald Business News, in 2007 Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service (a quasi-governmental body, because Korea is miles ahead of the U.S. in providing nationalized health insurance) estimated that 2.5 percent of all Koreans (roughly around 1.2 million people) suffered from depression, and only around half of them received treatment. However, psychiatrists of Korea estimate that 10 percent of all Koreans have "depression at the level where treatment is necessary."

While the estimate sounds a little high, it is not totally unreasonable. Because many Koreans still maintain the attitude that depression is not a real illness, it is likely that depression is not fully diagnosed in Korea. Also, especially with Korean males, depression may manifest itself as alcoholism, evading diagnosis.

Recently there have been campaigns to raise awareness for depression, terming it "the cold of the mind." Such campaigns are slowly turning the public perception in Korea around, but there is still a long way to go.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Do you think this is in any way related to the oft repeated phrase, when discussing something unpleasant but altogether changeable, "Well yes, but we must endure." It's something I hear a great deal of, whether it's six day workweeks or 14 hour days or, well, whatever. I suppose I'm just used to indignant Americans preparing for a protest. (though actually the protests here blow away anything I've seen in the States, save for that WTO fiasco in Seattle.) Which begs the question, supposing depression is related to one's environment, and such a large number of people are so ready to protest things like beef so vigorously, how does such an inclination come to be coupled with this "Things are bad but I must suffer because there's nothing I can do" kind of resignation?

  2. I think in some cases when people really could use help--some may feel they should 'endure', --and others may feel too ashamed to ask for help, while still others may worry that maybe some people would see them as weak for saying they're thinking about/getting (or that they want to get)help.

  3. Cell phones cause depression. Or reflect depression. Or are somehow correlated with depression. Something to do with cell phones.

  4. This this is such an old post, I'm not sure if you'll respond to this comment, but I have a quick question:

    How would say "depression" (meaning the illness, of course) in Korean? If you could provide the answer in Hangeul, I would really be grateful!

  5. Agh, sorry about the typo.

  6. This article regarding Depression Among Koreans is very interesting and useful, depression can affect your sexual activity, and this not only happen to older people as I used to believed, young people can also be affected so you may need generic viagra to help yourself on those situations. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day.

  7. wtf Darren. Why bother bringing up sexual activity with depression? who gives a crap? other things can affect sexuality too. try sticking with the topic? and sex-related stuff is private in k culture, so keep that viagra talk and crap to yourself. no offense, you sound like one of those yellow fever American/western guys.

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