South Korea

South Korean medical report blames illiteracy for many dementia cases

Medical experts are claiming that illiteracy is linked to higher risks of dementia in Korea

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 4:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 4:45pm

By Ko Dong-hwan

A Korean medical report says illiteracy is behind 16 percent of dementia cases.

The report ― by Prof. Kim Ki-woong from Seoul National University Bundang Hospital ― is the first to put a figure on illiteracy’s potential for raising the risk of dementia.

Kim studied Korean dementia patients from 2015, conducting letter decryption tests and checking their disease history. He concluded that 15.6 per cent of them suffered dementia due to illiteracy. Diabetes, hypertension and depressive disorders explained the disease in the other patients.

In Korea, where dementia strikes 4 per cent of those in their 60s and over 20 percent of people in their 70s, Kim’s report highlights the importance of reading for older people. The average illiteracy rate in Korean adults was 1.7 per cent in 2008, according to Hankook Ilbo.  

“To reduce the number of dementia patients, the Korean government must be aggressive in providing literacy tools to adults who cannot read and write,” Prof. Kim said in the report, published in the latest issue of the “Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

“If we leave behind no adults aged 65 or under illiterate, we can bring down the rate of illiteracy-bound dementia patients to 1.6 percent by 2050, which will save the nation’s treatment costs of 60 trillion won (US$49 billion).”

In Latin America, Southwest Asia and Africa, where the illiteracy rate is higher than Korea’s, the dementia risk is as high as 70 per cent, compared with 3-20 per cent caused by hypertension, diabetes, obesity and depressive disorders, Prof. Kim said.

Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics show there are more than 600,000 dementia patients in Korea, a figure expected to increase to a million by 2025 and to 2 million by 2043.

Report blames illiteracy for many dementia cases