More than 1.5M Koreans at risk of 'lonely death,' survey says

<p>This illustration depicts a lonely death. <em>(Yonhap)</em></p>

This illustration depicts a lonely death. (Yonhap)

SEOUL – More than 1.5 million South Korean people are at risk of "lonely death" or unattended death, accounting for 3 percent of the country's population, a government survey showed Thursday.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it had conducted the poll on a sample of 9,471 single-member households from November to December last year to check their circumstances that could possibly lead to a lonely death in the future.

The 10-step checklist includes questions about whether the respondent has social interaction at least once a week or has relatives or friends to ask for help in case of illness, according to the ministry.

According to the Lonely Death Prevention and Management Act, lonely death refers to a phenomenon of people with no relatives dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a certain period of time. It is also called solitary or unattended death.

The ministry said the survey showed 1.52 million people are highly likely exposed to a lonely death, accounting for 3 percent of the country's population of 50 million and 21.3 percent of the total one-person households.

Among them, people in their 50s made up 33.9 percent, followed by those in their 60s and 40s with 30.2 percent and 25.8 percent, respectively. People in their 20s and 30s accounted for 9.7 percent and 16.6 percent, respectively.

According to a separate health ministry report published last year, the country recorded 3,378 such deaths in 2021, growing at an average annual rate of 8.8 percent over the past five years.

The health ministry said it would provide tailored public services for those people at risk and identify cases of social isolation in advance to reduce the number of lonely deaths by 20 percent by 2027. (Yonhap)