J Korean Med Sci.  2019 Dec;34(46):e295. 10.3346/jkms.2019.34.e295.

The Association of Childhood Experience of Peer Bullying with DSM-IV Psychiatric Disorders and Suicidality in Adults: Results from a Nationwide Survey in Korea

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea. because99@hanmail.net
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, Inje University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 5Department of Psychiatry, Gachon Medical School, Incheon, Korea.
  • 6Department of Psychiatry, Kangwon National University School of Medicine, Chuncheon, Korea.
  • 7Department of Psychiatry, Kangdong Sacred Heart Hospital, Seoul, Korea.


Few studies have examined the association between childhood bullying and adulthood mental disorders based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria. We investigated the association of childhood peer bullying with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) psychiatric disorders and suicidality in adults.
A total of 5,102 respondents aged 18 or over completed the Korean version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview for DSM-IV psychiatric disorders and a questionnaire for suicidal ideas, plans, and attempts. We evaluated peer bullying using an item in the Adverse Childhood Experiences International Questionnaire. Logistic regression analyses were used to identify the association between victimization of peer bullying, adult psychiatric disorders, and suicidality.
Around 8.8% of the general population in Korea reported the experience of being bullied when growing up. Bullying experience was associated with an increase in the adulthood prevalence of nicotine use disorders (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.47; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.75-3.49), alcohol use disorders (aOR, 1.93; 95% CI, 1.49-2.51), mood disorders (aOR, 4.23; 95% CI, 3.01-5.94), and anxiety disorders (aOR, 2.89; 95% CI, 1.89-4.43) after adjusting for sociodemographic variables. Among anxiety disorders, the OR for post-traumatic stress disorder (aOR, 9.95; 95% CI, 5.62-17.63) was notably high. Frequent victimization (many times) was significantly associated with suicidality even after adjusting for sociodemographic variables and lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders, whereas occasional victimization (once or a few times) was not.
Childhood bullying experience was associated with adult psychiatric disorders and suicidality. The findings indicated the importance of the early detection and management of childhood peer bullying to reduce detrimental adulthood consequences.


Bullying; Mental Disorders; Suicide; Cross-Sectional Studies

MeSH Terms

Anxiety Disorders
Crime Victims
Cross-Sectional Studies
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
Logistic Models
Mental Disorders
Mood Disorders
Odds Ratio
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
Surveys and Questionnaires
Tobacco Use Disorder
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