SEOUL, South Korea — In 1960, South Koreans had an average life expectancy of about 52 years. This number was 16 years below the global average. Currently, South Korea rests among the top 10 leading countries in terms of life expectancy, with its citizens predicted to live around 83 years. In the text below, the top 10 facts about life expectancy in South Korea that will better explain some of the challenges South Koreans have overcome and still face today, are presented.
Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in South Korea
- Since 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized the role of vitamin A in human health. Recent studies have shown that the Korean diet, particularly its staple superfood known as kimchi, encourages the consumption of ingredients that are high in probiotics and vitamin A. As such, kimchi is one of the top five healthiest foods in the world.
- Nutritional education can be a determining factor in a person’s life expectancy. In addition to expanding the knowledge of what nutrients are in the food that they eat, Koreans have also turned their focus to their equal distribution of food among their school-aged children. In 2007, Korea implemented nutrition teachers in all of their schools. These teachers currently focus on improving the health of all of their students through a more supervised dietary lifestyle.
- Access to health and social care also plays a huge role in increasing a country’s life expectancy. Advancement in the quality of health care systems can lead to an increase in survival rates for infants, an especially motivating outcome, as South Korea’s fertility rate hit an all-time low of 1.05 in 2018. Additionally, an increase in health care benefits South Korean patients with serious diseases and survivors of traffic accidents.
- Lower blood pressure also affects life expectancy. With the increasing rates of accessibility of its health care systems, South Koreans have also noted its comparably smaller levels of blood pressure to its Western counterparts. This has also decreased the number of deaths caused by strokes and other heart diseases.
- Studies have shown that there is a correlation between a person’s height and their life expectancy. For countries like the U.S., that have seen a stagnation in the growth rates of its average adult height, it has been noted that this is an indicator of stagnation or even possible declination in the nation’s longevity. Meanwhile, countries with increased growth rates of average heights like South Korea, show the positive effects of the equal distribution of quality food.
- Due to the developments of its living standards, South Korean society has been able to widen the spread of its health care systems, bringing it closer to making the systems universal. This, along with its focus on food distribution, has led to the Korean government revisiting the organization of its previous health care system, the National Health Insurance Program that was infamously unbalanced and corrupted in 1997.
- While South Korea has made significant advances in health care systems and general living standards, Koreans still have to address one of its largest contributors to death- suicide among its teenage populations. With over 16,000 deaths, South Korea has the 10th highest suicide rate in the world. The South Korea government has implemented several prevention initiatives, such as the Young Health Programme’s safeTALK program, to increase awareness and raise support for its younger demographics.
- The problem that remains for South Koreans now is addressing suicide rates among their elder demographics. In recent generations, traditional values such as filial piety from Confucianism have started to lose its significance in family structures. As such, more than 45 percent of the older generations live in poverty, sometimes succumbing to mental illnesses like depression and resorting to killing themselves.
- South Korea has not been able to ignore the impact social changes have had on some of its practices, specifically its work-retirement plans. South Korea men in their 60s have reported feeling pressured to continue working at their jobs until they are 80, mostly due to their fear of being a burden to their families. As such, South Korea is currently working on making adaptive reformations to its previous policies in order to try to accommodate both factions of their elders.
- South Korean women will be topping the charts in life expectancy. According to a study led by researcher Majid Ezzati, South Korean women who will be born in the year 2030 have more than 50 percent chance to be the first humans to enjoy a life that may exceed 90 years. This places South Korean women above France, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and Australia.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in South Korea display many accomplishments the country has already achieved and some of the difficulties it still faces going forward to secure its projected rank as the leading country in life expectancy by 2030.
– Jordan Melinda Washington