J Korean Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry.  2020 Jan;31(1):33-40. 10.5765/jkacap.190035.

Suicide Attempts and Contributing Factors among South and North Korean-Family Youth Using the Korean Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey

  • 1Department of Research Planning, Mental Health Research Institute, National Center for Mental Health, Seoul, Korea
  • 2Department of Psychology, Graduate School, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea


There is an increasing number of North Korean adolescents in South Korea. These adolescents need clinical attention as they experience a high risk of suicidal behavior because of the childhood adversity and acculturative challenges that they face before and after arriving in South Korea. This study assessed the risk of suicide attempts among North Korean adolescents compared to South Korean adolescents, and investigated the contributing factors for each group.
We used data from the Korean Youth Risk Behavior Web-Based Survey (KYRBS) spanning 2011 to 2018, in which 404 adolescents had a father and/or mother who was a North Korean native. Data on 1,212 propensity-matched South Korean adolescents were extracted from the 2011 to 2018 KYRBS. Prevalence was calculated and compared by group. Separate odds ratios were calculated by group.
The North Korean group had a significantly higher suicide attempt rate [unadjusted odds ratio (OR)=8.27; adjusted OR=8.45].Multivariate analysis indicated that having a low or high socioeconomic status and depressive symptoms were significantly associated with suicide attempts in North Korean adolescents, while being female, having a high socioeconomic status, alcohol use, and depressive symptoms were significantly related to suicide attempts in South Korean adolescents.
The results found similarities and differences in the factors associated with the likelihood of suicide attempts in the two groups. From these results, different approaches are needed when planning interventions for each group.


North Korean-family; Adolescent; Suicide attempt; Contributing factors; KYRBS
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