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Association between childhood adversities and adulthood depressive symptoms in South Korea: results from a nationally representative longitudinal study
  1. Seung-Sup Kim1,2,3,
  2. Hyobum Jang4,
  3. Hyoung Yoon Chang5,6,
  4. Young Su Park7,
  5. Dong-Woo Lee8
  1. 1Healthcare Management, Korea University, Seoul, Korea
  2. 2Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  4. 4Master of Public Health Program, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  5. 5Master of Public Health Program, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, New York, USA
  6. 6Department of Psychiatry, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea
  7. 7Department of Anthropology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  8. 8Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
  1. Correspondence to Dr Seung-Sup Kim; ssk3{at}


Objective To examine how childhood adversity (ie, parental death, parental divorce, suspension of school education due to financial strain or being raised in a relative's house due to financial strain) is associated with prevalence and incidence of adulthood depressive symptoms and whether this association differs by gender and by age in South Korea.

Design Prospective cohort design.

Setting Nationally representative longitudinal survey in South Korea.

Participants 11 526 participants in South Korea.

Outcome measure Prevalence and incidence of adulthood depressive symptoms were assessed as a dichotomous variable using the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale in 2006 and 2007.

Results In the prevalence analysis, each of the four childhood adversities was significantly associated with a higher prevalence of adulthood depressive symptoms. The higher incidence of depressive symptoms was associated with suspension of school education (OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.32 to 1.82) and parental divorce (OR 1.65, 95% CI 1.00 to 2.71). In the age-stratified analyses, prevalence of depressive symptoms was associated with all CAs across different adulthoods, except for parental divorce and late adulthood depressive symptoms. After being stratified by gender, the association was significant for parental divorce (OR 3.76, 95% CI 2.34 to 6.03) in the prevalence analysis and for being raised in a relative’s house (OR 1.89, 95% CI 1.21 to 2.94) in the incidence analysis only among women.

Conclusions This study suggests that childhood adversity may increase prevalence and incidence of adulthood depressive symptoms, and the impact of parental divorce or being raised in a relative's house due to financial strain on adulthood depressive symptoms may differ by gender.

  • Depression & mood disorders < PSYCHIATRY
  • Childhood adversity
  • Life-course epidemiology
  • South Korea

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