Korean J Fam Med.  2017 Sep;38(5):256-262. 10.4082/kjfm.2017.38.5.256.

Health Behavior and Factors Associated with Depression in North Korean Adolescent Defectors in South Korea: The Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-Based Survey, 2011–2014

  • 1Department of Family Medicine, Kyung Hee University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. byungskim@naver.com


The number of North Korean adolescent defectors entering South Korea has been increasing. The health behavior, including mental health-related behavior, and factors associated with depression in North Korean adolescent defectors residing in South Korea were investigated.
Data obtained from the Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-Based Survey (2011-2014) dataset were utilized. In total, 206 North Korean adolescent defectors were selected, and for the control group, 618 matched South Korean adolescents were selected. Frequency analysis was used to determine the place of birth and nationality of the parents, chi-square tests were used to compare the general characteristics of the North and South Korean subjects, and multivariate logistic regressions were conducted to compare the health behavior of the two sets of subjects. To determine the factors associated with depression in the North Korean subjects, a logistic regression was performed.
The North Korean adolescents reported higher current smoking (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.54; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.48 to 4.35), current drinking (aOR, 1.85; 95% CI, 1.15 to 2.99), and drug use rates (aOR, 10.99; 95% CI, 4.04 to 29.88) than did the South Korean adolescents. The factors associated with depression in the North Korean adolescents were current smoking (aOR, 6.99; 95% CI, 1.62 to 30.06), lifetime drinking experience (aOR, 5.32; 95% CI, 1.51 to 18.75), and perceived stress (aOR, 4.74; 95% CI, 1.74 to 12.90).
There were differences in health behavior between the North and South Korean adolescents. A specialized approach for North Korean adolescent defectors is required to promote proper health behavior and adaptation to South Korean society.


Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Adolescent; Health Behavior; Depression
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