Anxiety Mood.  2018 Apr;14(1):28-35. 10.24986/anxmod.2018.14.1.28.

Mental Health Service Use by the North Korean Defectors

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2National Center for Mental Health, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Psychology, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Korea.


The purpose of this study was to assess the use of mental health services by North Korean defectors. The study sought to understand the determinants of use with socio-demographical characteristics and the barriers of using mental health service.
Data were collected from a sample of the 300 North Korean defectors who have settled in South Korea within the last three years, aged 18 years and older. Face-to-face interviews and a survey using the North Korean version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview were conducted.
21.0% of respondents reported the use of mental health services. Among them, 16.0% reported the use of mental health specialty, 2.0% reported the use of general medical services, and 3.0% reported the use of others. Of the respondents who had one or more psychiatric disorders, 28.8% used mental health services. The highest rate of use of mental health services was by respondents who are aged over 50 years old, had less than 10 years of education, and were unemployed. Of those who suffered from a psychiatric disorder but did not seek for consultation, 74.4% said that they could handle the problem by themselves, and 74.6% asserted that they had no psychiatric disorder.
North Korean defectors in South Korea used mental health services more than the general South Korean population. It would be crucial to provide appropriate mental health services based on the needs of North Korean.


North Korean defectors; Mental health services; Mental health
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