Inequality of suicide in South Korea: Unequal distribution of completed suicide and suicidal ideation

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Suicide in South Korea, considered a serious social issue, has been investigated by a number of scholars in multidisciplinary fields. However, suicide continues to be framed and focused only on limited aspects, such as having an individual-level focus on problems they face in only biomedical and psychiatric factors or only macro-level social contextual factors. Those one-sided approaches contain flaws from paying little attention, which results in an incomprehensive understanding of suicide occurring in society.

This dissertation has three primary aims to examine: (1) major influential factors of suicide rates in South Korea counties from 2005–2013, (2) gender, age group-specific influential factors of suicide rate of South Korea in 2005 and 2010, and (3) individual level inequality of suicidal ideation in South Korea from 2007–2017 controlling province level regional predictors.

County-level suicide rates were lower in the counties with higher population density and crude birth rate. In contrast, counties with higher crude divorce rates had higher expected suicide rates. For age group- and gender-specific suicide rates, all age groups had higher suicide rates in 2010 than 2005 after holding all other variables constant. Especially for the elderly suicide rate, counties with a higher proportion of the elderly were associated with a lower suicide rate, indicating the social network effect. The risk of suicidal ideation was higher for females, older age groups, lower-income, unemployed, not currently married, negative health status (stressed, bad health, depression without care).