Correlates of depressive symptoms among North Korean refugees adapting to South Korean society: The moderating role of perceived discrimination

Mee Young Um, Iris Chi, Hee Jin Kim, Lawrence A. Palinkas, Jae Yop Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although the prevalence of depressive disorders among North Korean (NK) refugees living in South Korea has been reported to be twice the rate of their South Korean counterparts, little is known about the correlates of depressive symptoms among this population. Despite their escape from a politically and economically repressive setting, NK refugees continue to face multidimensional hardships during their adaptation process in South Korea, which can adversely affect their mental health. However, to our knowledge, no empirical research exists to date on depressive symptoms in the context of adaptation or perceived discrimination among NK refugees. To fill this gap, this study used a sample of 261 NK refugees in South Korea from the 2010 National Survey on Family Violence to examine associations between sociocultural adaptation, perceived discrimination, and depressive symptoms, as well as the moderation effect of discrimination on adaptation to depressive symptoms. We found that poor sociocultural adaptation and perception of discrimination were associated with increased levels of depressive symptoms. Perception of discrimination attenuated the association between better adaptation and fewer depressive symptoms, when compared to no perception of discrimination. These findings highlight the need to improve NK refugees' adaptation and integration as well as their psychological well-being in a culturally sensitive and comprehensive manner. They also underscore the importance of educating South Koreans to become accepting hosts who value diversity, yet in a homogeneous society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-113
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume131
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Depressive symptoms
  • North Korean refugees
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Post-migration factors
  • Psychosocial well-being
  • Sociocultural adaptation
  • South Korea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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