Leap in suicides by men in early 50's blamed on economic pressures: S. Korea

KOREA - The suicide rate for men in their 50s has soared, driven by a combination of economic hardships and poor health, reports from Statistics Office and Police Agency showed Tuesday.

The suicide rate for men aged 50-54 was 62.4 per 100,000 persons in 2009, quadrupling from 20 years ago. It is the highest since the Statistics Office began recording the suicide rate.

During the same period, the suicide rate for men aged 30-34 increased 149 per cent and for men aged 40 to 44 rose 193 per cent.

For women aged 50 to 54 it was much lower at 19.9 per 100,000.

Men in their 50s are more at risk of suicide due to pressure from economic difficulty and a sense of duty to support their families, the report showed.

The 2010 survey result cited in the report indicates that 44.9 per cent of men surveyed picked economic hardship as the factor most likely to cause suicidal urges, followed by poor health at 11.3 per cent and loneliness at 11 per cent.

The suicide rate for men in their 50s has surged due to financial crises in the past: During the 1997-8 Asian financial crisis the rate jumped from 29.5 per 100,000 in 1997 to 48.5 in 1998, while in the 2008 financial crisis the rate soared from 47.1 in 2008 to 62.4 in 2009.

When stock prices plunged in early August, the 48-year-old man surnamed Suh leaped to his death from his apartment building in Daegu. Suh, who worked at a stock firm, had reportedly sustained a huge loss on the investments made with his clients' money.

Experts say that middle-aged men are under too much stress from supporting their families and some make drastic decisions when they cannot fulfill the responsibility.

"Male baby boomers in their early 50s have been the drivers of economic development and survived in a harsh competition in the course of development, but they are the least healthy generation, pressured by both parental generation and young generation," said an official from the police agency.