SEJONG, Only one in five single South Korean women said they want to get married, data showed Friday, underscoring the tough social challenges facing Asia's fourth-largest economy amid a record low fertility rate.

The data compiled by Statistics Korea showed that 22.4 percent of single women are looking to tie the knot in 2018, a dramatic decline from 46.8 percent in 2010. In comparison, 36.3 percent of single South Korean men are in favor of marriage, down sharply from 62.6 percent in 2010.

The number of couples tying the knot came to 257,622 in 2018, compared with 264,455 in 2017, according to the statistics agency. The figure is the lowest since 1972, when the number of couples who got married came to 244,780.

Some South Koreans are opting to distance themselves from life's three major milestones dating, marriage and having children because they struggle with future uncertainties amid a prolonged economic slowdown.

The decline in marriages led to a record low total fertility rate of 0.98 in 2018, much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 that would keep South Korea's population of 51 million stable.

The total fertility rate refers to the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime.

The latest findings of the Korean social indicator report showed the number of South Koreans aged 65 years or older accounted for 14.3 percent of the country's population in 2018.

A country is defined as an aged society when more than 14 percent of its people are 65 or older.

The report said cancer is the No. 1 cause of death among South Koreans, followed by heart problems, cerebrovascular disease and pneumonia.

The smoking rate in South Korean men aged 19 or older came to 37 percent in 2017, down from 46.8 percent in 2011.

In 2015, South Korea increased the price of cigarettes by 80 percent, from 2,500 won (US$2.25) per pack to 4,500 won, in an effort to curb smoking.

The South Korean government also mandated that tobacco companies place graphic images showing the harmful effects of smoking on the upper part of cigarette packs in 2016.

The report said those who are in danger of overdependence on smartphones accounted for 18.6 percent of South Koreans in 2017, up 0.8 percentage point from a year earlier

It said 30.3 percent of people aged between 10 and 19 were heavily reliant on smartphones, compared to 23.6 percent for those in their 20s.

Those who are in danger of overdependence on smartphones have difficulty living ordinary lives, according to the National Information Society Agency, which handles treatment for those who are addicted to the Internet.

The official findings said that the number of crimes reported in South Korea came to 1.825 million in 2017, down 9.1 percent from a year earlier. Among them, robbery fell 16.2 percent on-year to just 990 in 2017.

As for the environment, 82.5 percent of people said they feel a sense of uneasiness in regards to fine dust, according to the report.

Fine dust has blanketed South Korea in recent weeks, prompting calls for action to combat the particles smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter. Fine dust can cause various respiratory diseases and undermine the body's immune system.

South Korea emitted 694.1 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2016, up 0.2 percent from a year earlier.

In 2015, South Korea offered to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent by 2030 from 850.6 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, an amount Seoul says it would reach if no action is taken.

Scientists have said the heat-trapping gases are to blame for global warming.

Source: Yonhap news Agency