South Korea and Estonias’ Suicide Rates: Is it Capitalism?
The OECD Health at a Glace for 2013 report came out. One thing that’s pretty apparent from the data on suicide is that the great “divergence” that took place with Korea’s suicide rate is still holding strong vis-a-vis other countries like Japan and Greece.The culture of capitalism is sometimes attributed as the ‘genesis’ towards the great shift in higher rates of suicide for Korea. However, just a few points on that thesis:
- Where there are demand shocks (2008) in the data, and potential regional financial crises (1998), it’s apparent from the graph that these spikes in the rates of suicide may not be from the culture of capitalism itself, but by the disruption of that existing system once it’s in place.
- Estonia seems to be a supporting point that again, it’s not the system itself (formerly soviet), but the disruption and overturning of a economic system that can lead to massive despair and instability. However, as Estonia’s time series suggest, capitalism, once left in place, may have had a conciliatory effect on suicide rates as Estonia transitioned into independence in an entirely new environment (this is not just with Estonia, but with the common wealth of independent states)
- Troubling trend for South Korea shows that each new economic shock presents a new trend line where thereafter suicide rates are unable to return to previously lower trends over the long term
There’s a lot to take in, but this is just a initial reading of the data. It should also be noted that some countries are completely unmoved by regional economic shocks (Greece and Spain). However, Estonia and S.Korea present an interesting contrast, because the point at which they find the biggest disruption in the modern era within their respective nations ( the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the IMF crisis) aren’t that far apart. And it suggests that how a culture handles stress, modernity, competition, materialism, depression, unemployment, social welfare, and mental illness is as important for a healthy and mentally stable population as is laying blame on capitalism.