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J Prev Med Public Health. 2016 Sep;49(5):301-307. Epub 2016 Aug 24.

Perceived Ethnic Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms Among Biethnic Adolescents in South Korea.

Park GR1, Son I2, Kim SS3,4,5.

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Social Insurance Research Department, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, Sejong, Korea.
Asiatic Research Institute, Korea University, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Public Health Sciences, Graduate School of Korea University, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA.
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.



This study investigated the association between perceived ethnic discrimination and depressive symptoms among biethnic adolescents in South Korea.


We performed a cross-sectional study of 4141 biethnic adolescents using data from the 2012 National Survey of Multicultural Families. Perceived ethnic discrimination was measured using the question "Have you ever been discriminated against or ignored because either of your parents is not a Korean?" with an assessment of depressive symptoms over the past 12 months. Logistic regression was applied to examine potential associations between perceived ethnic discrimination and depressive symptoms.


Among 4141 biethnic adolescents, 558 (13.5%) reported having experienced ethnic discrimination. The most common discriminatory perpetrators were friends (n=241, 5.8%), followed by strangers (n=67, 1.6%). Depressive symptoms were related to experience of ethnic discrimination (odds ratio [OR], 3.80; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.89 to 4.98) after adjusting for potential confounders. In an analysis focusing on the perpetrators of discrimination, depressive symptoms were found to be associated with perceived ethnic discrimination from friends (OR, 3.95; 95% CI, 2.75 to 5.68), teachers (OR, 4.53; 95% CI, 2.16 to 9.51), family members and relatives (OR, 3.89; 95% CI, 1.59 to 9.48), neighbors (OR, 2.48; 95% CI, 1.14 to 5.38), and strangers (OR, 2.49; 95% CI, 1.30 to 4.79). Furthermore, the OR for depressive symptoms among those exposed to 1, 2, or 3 or more discriminatory perpetrators were 3.61 (95% CI, 2.49 to 5.24), 3.61 (95% CI, 1.68 to 7.74), and 6.69 (95% CI, 2.94 to 15.22), respectively.


According to our findings, friends were the most common perpetrators of discrimination and the experience of ethnic discrimination was associated with depressive symptoms among biethnic adolescents in South Korea.


Depression; Discrimination; Republic of Korea

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