J Korean Med Sci.  2021 Sep;36(37):e240. 10.3346/jkms.2021.36.e240.

The Association of Childhood Maltreatment with Adulthood Mental Disorders and Suicidality in Korea: a Nationwide Community Study

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Kyungpook National University Hospital, Daegu, Korea
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea
  • 3Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, Inje University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 5Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 6Department of Psychiatry, Gachon Medical School, Incheon, Korea
  • 7Department of Psychiatry, Kangwon National University School of Medicine, Chuncheon, Korea
  • 8Department of Psychiatry, Kangdong Sacred Heart Hospital, Seoul, Korea
  • 9Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  • 10Department of Psychiatry, Kyungpook National University Chilgok Hospital, Daegu, Korea


Although childhood maltreatment is a known risk factor for adulthood mental health, the impact of different types of childhood maltreatment on mental disorders is not yet clear. This study explored the association of each type of childhood maltreatment with adulthood mental disorders and suicidality in South Korea.
A total of 5,102 individuals from the general populations over the age of 18 responded to the Korean version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and questions about childhood maltreatment (emotional neglect, psychological abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse). To evaluate the odds ratio for mental disorders and suicidality associated with each type of childhood maltreatment, we used logistic regression analysis.
About 17.0% of the respondents reported having experienced a type of maltreatment in childhood. According to the type, 9.4% reported physical abuse, 9.3% reported emotional neglect, 7.9% reported psychological abuse, and 3.8% reported sexual abuse. Exposure to each type of childhood maltreatment was associated with most types of mental disorders after adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Each type of childhood maltreatment victim was associated with suicidality (suicidal ideations, suicide plans, and suicide attempts). Dose-response patterns for suicide attempts were observed in all types of victims. Moreover, the respondents who experienced frequent childhood emotional neglect were 14 times more likely to have attempted suicide.
Childhood maltreatment was associated with mental health in adulthood. The findings show the need for early detection and intervention of victims of childhood maltreatment to minimize its negative impact on adult mental health.


Child Abuse; Mental Disorders; Mental Health; Suicide; Korea
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