South Korea is facing a growing challenge in the form of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in its ageing population.
NCDs, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, and are now the leading causes of death in South Korea.
The country has one of the fastest-ageing populations in the world, and by 2026, over a quarter of the population is expected to be 65 years or older. This ageing population is particularly vulnerable to NCDs, and the increase in their prevalence has put a strain on South Korea’s healthcare system. One of the main contributing factors to the rise in NCDs is the changing lifestyle of the South Korean population. The traditional diet, which was once high in vegetables and low in fat, has been replaced by a diet that is high in processed foods and sugar, leading to a rise in obesity and related health problems. Additionally, the country’s sedentary lifestyle, which is characterized by long hours of sitting at desks, has contributed to the rise in NCDs.
According to a recent study by researcher Jihyun Yoon on behalf of Korea University and supported by the Korean Health Technology R&D Project, Ministry of Health and Welfare, advances in medical technology and disease prevention have dramatically increased South Korea’s life expectancy. However, there remains a gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, with the average Korean experiencing approximately 8.4 years of disability or disease before death. The primary cause of these years of sickness is believed to be Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which account for 81% of total deaths and seven of the top 10 causes of death.
The study highlights the need for effective management of lifestyle-related NCD risk factors, such as high smoking rates and high-risk drinking rates among men, decreasing physical activity, increasing calorie and sodium intake, and low treatment and control rates for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetic complications. The study emphasizes the importance of the government accurately understanding the magnitude of current health issues and providing appropriate and timely interventions, funds, and educational programs to help those already suffering from NCDs and to prevent or postpone NCD development in healthy individuals. The South Korean government has recognized the need to address the growing challenge of NCDs and has taken steps to improve the country’s healthcare system. This has included increasing investment in healthcare, improving access to care, and promoting preventative measures such as healthy eating and physical activity.
However, despite these efforts, much remains to be done to address the root causes of NCDs in South Korea. The country needs to continue to invest in healthcare and improve access to care, but it also needs to tackle the underlying lifestyle factors that contribute to the rise in NCDs. The average person can also take steps to reduce their risk of developing NCDs. This includes adopting a healthy diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in processed foods and sugar. Regular physical activity is also important, as is quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption. Additionally, managing stress through activities such as meditation or yoga can also help to reduce the risk of NCDs.
The country’s healthcare system is already under strain, and the rise in NCDs is likely to put even more pressure on it in the coming years. Addressing the root causes of NCDs, including unhealthy lifestyles, will be key to improving the health outcomes of the country’s ageing population and ensuring the sustainability of its healthcare system. By taking steps to adopt a healthier lifestyle, the average person can play their part in reducing the risk of NCDs and improving their overall health.