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J Korean Med Sci. 2019 Dec 2;34(46):e295. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2019.34.e295.

The Association of Childhood Experience of Peer Bullying with DSM-IV Psychiatric Disorders and Suicidality in Adults: Results from a Nationwide Survey in Korea.

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Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, Inje University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, Gachon Medical School, Incheon, Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, Kangwon National University School of Medicine, Chuncheon, Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, Kangdong Sacred Heart Hospital, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea.



Few studies have examined the association between childhood bullying and adulthood mental disorders based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria. We investigated the association of childhood peer bullying with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) psychiatric disorders and suicidality in adults.


A total of 5,102 respondents aged 18 or over completed the Korean version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview for DSM-IV psychiatric disorders and a questionnaire for suicidal ideas, plans, and attempts. We evaluated peer bullying using an item in the Adverse Childhood Experiences International Questionnaire. Logistic regression analyses were used to identify the association between victimization of peer bullying, adult psychiatric disorders, and suicidality.


Around 8.8% of the general population in Korea reported the experience of being bullied when growing up. Bullying experience was associated with an increase in the adulthood prevalence of nicotine use disorders (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.47; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.75-3.49), alcohol use disorders (aOR, 1.93; 95% CI, 1.49-2.51), mood disorders (aOR, 4.23; 95% CI, 3.01-5.94), and anxiety disorders (aOR, 2.89; 95% CI, 1.89-4.43) after adjusting for sociodemographic variables. Among anxiety disorders, the OR for post-traumatic stress disorder (aOR, 9.95; 95% CI, 5.62-17.63) was notably high. Frequent victimization (many times) was significantly associated with suicidality even after adjusting for sociodemographic variables and lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders, whereas occasional victimization (once or a few times) was not.


Childhood bullying experience was associated with adult psychiatric disorders and suicidality. The findings indicated the importance of the early detection and management of childhood peer bullying to reduce detrimental adulthood consequences.


Bullying; Cross-Sectional Studies; Mental Disorders; Suicide

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

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