Excess suicide attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and social disparities in South Korea

Jieun Min, Jieun Oh, Soo In Kim, Cinoo Kang, Eunhee Ha, Ho Kim, Whanhee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on suicide remains unclear and might differ according to individuals’ socioeconomic characteristics. We aimed to investigate excess suicide attributable to COVID-19 in South Korea, stratified by the outbreak period and individual characteristics. We obtained daily time-series suicide mortality data for January 2017–December 2020 from the Korea National Statistics Office and performed a two-stage interrupted time-series analysis. We estimated excess suicide in 16 regions of Korea using a quasi-Poisson time-series regression model and pooled the region-specific estimates using a mixed-effects multivariate meta-analysis model in the first and second stages, respectively. From February 18 to December 31, 2020, suicide decreased by 9.5% [95% empirical confidence interval (eCI): 3.8%, 15.6%] compared to the number expected from the pre-pandemic period. The decrease in excess suicide risk from the initial pandemic was pronounced during the pandemic’s first and third waves. Further, we found that the decrease in suicide was more evident in individuals who were male [11.7% (95% eCI: 5.5%, 18.0%)], middle-aged [13.7% (95% eCI: 7.8%, 19.6%)], highly educated [12.6% (95% eCI: 6.4%, 19.4%)], and married [13.6% (95% eCI: 8.0%, 20.3%)] than in the general population, based on the point estimates. Our results provide timely evidence to establish public health policies for suicide prevention and suggest the prioritization of resource allocation for mental health of individuals based on individual characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18390
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Pusan National University Research Grant, 2022.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (BK21 Center for Integrative Response to Health Disasters, Graduate School of Public Health, Seoul National University) (No. 4199990514025).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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