More and more Koreans, especially in their 20s and over 70, are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The National Health Insurance Service said Thursday the number of patients rose from 71,687 in 2013 to 86,706 in 2017. Patients over 70 took up the largest proportion at 305 per 100,000 people, followed by 20-somethings with 209 and 30-somethings with 195.
The annual increase over the past five years was also highest among the two top age groups at 12.2 percent for people over 70 and 8.3 percent among 20-somethings, compared to the average across all age groups of 4.9 percent.
"Bipolar disorder seems to be increasing among those in their 20s because they're under severe stress to succeed in their studies and find jobs," said Prof. Lee Jung-suk at NHIS Ilsan Hospital in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.
The high proportion of patients over 70 is attributed to the growth of the older population and the increase of other geriatric illnesses. There were some 50,000 women with bipolar disorder as of 2017, outnumbering their male counterparts by about 15,000.
Lee said this could be related to the stresses of motherhood. The NHIS stressed the need to maintain healthy routines to keep bipolar disorder in check. Once diagnosed with bipolar disorder, patients need uninterrupted drug treatment because it often recurs.