By Bahk Eun-ji
Jang Hye-joon, a 37-year-old homemaker living in northeastern Seoul's Nowon District, said her husband suggested recently she seek counseling for depression and anxiety.
Jang said she began feeling depressed a couple of months after she quit her job in April last year in order to take care of her daughter who had to stay at home instead of attending a daycare center due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
"I had to quit my job because I couldn't get help with childcare from my parents or in-laws. Recently I applied for a job again, but it didn't go well," Jang said. "Whenever I got calls back from companies I applied to, they told me that my interviews were not successful. I felt frustrated and I think the frustration developed into depression."
A 36-year-old working mother surnamed Ko, who is about to go back to work after 10 months of maternity leave, said she has had no outlet for self-care during the leave period.
"There was no way to relieve my stress because I couldn't go out anywhere over concerns of virus infection. I had no choice but to stay home all day with my baby and it drove me crazy," Ko said.
"I gained a lot of weight as I ordered delivery food many times and couldn't go to the gym. Every time I see myself in the mirror, I feel even more stressed."
Like the cases of Jang and Ko, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed people's daily lives, bringing with it mental fatigue and stress on a large scale.
According to a Seoul City survey, Tuesday, 50.7 percent of Seoul residents interviewed said they experienced feelings of depression last year. The survey, of those aged 15 and over, was conducted on 40,085 Korean citizens and 2,500 foreign residents between September and October last year, as part of the city government's annual research on Seoul citizens' lifestyles.
Asked to identify the root of the feelings they experienced, when two reasons were allowed, 52.4 percent cited "uncertainty and anxiety over infection," while 43.4 percent said "being cooped up at home" and 29.5 percent said they "felt anxiety due to coronavirus-related media reports."
Some 44 percent of the respondents said they felt stressed in their daily lives, up 4.9 percentage points from a year before. As to the reason, when two answers were allowed, 45.6 percent cited financial difficulties, up by 7.8 percent, and 31.9 percent selected their health condition, up by 4.4 percentage points.
The pandemic has also changed life at home as people have been spending more time there than previously.
More than 32 percent of people with jobs experienced working from home, 74.1 percent of the respondents said their use of food delivery services increased, and 67.9 percent and 67.4 percent said their use of mobile messengers and online shopping also grew, respectively.
While 56.4 percent said they spent more time with family than before, 34.1 percent also said tensions between family members also increased.