Psychiatry Investig.  2009 Sep;6(3):122-130.

Prevalence and Correlates of Depressive Symptoms among North Korean Defectors Living in South Korea for More than One Year

  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Institute of Medical Science, Jeju National University School of Medicine, Jeju, Korea.
  • 2Department of Preventive Medicine, Jeju National University School of Medicine, Jeju, Korea.
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, Masan Samsung Hospital, School of Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University, Masan, Korea.
  • 4Department of Nursing Science, Jeju National University School of Medicine, Jeju, Korea.
  • 5Jeju Mental Health Sanatorium, Jeju, Korea.
  • 6Department of Chemistry, Jeju National University College of Natural Science, Jeju, Korea.


This study examined the prevalence and correlates of depressive symptoms in North Korean defectors who have been living in South Korea for more than one year. METHODS: We used questionnaires developed by the authors to collect sociodemographic data in addition to the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), the Psychosocial Well-being Index to measure stress, and a social support scale. A total of 367 subjects were included in this study. RESULTS: The results showed that 30.5% of the men and 34.7% of the women reported depressive symptoms, and 33.1% of the men and 36.1% of the women exhibited signs of severe distress. Correlates of depressive symptoms were lack of occupation [odds ratio (OR)=2.198, 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.247-3.873], having escaped without family (OR=1.725, 95% CI, 1.006-2.959), and a poor subjective sense of health status (OR=3.111, 95% CI, 1.591-6.085). CONCLUSION: Continuing vocational training and career management, psychological support programs, and intensive physical health services are needed to improve the mental health of this population.


Depressive symptoms; Correlates; North Korean defectors
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