The Effect of Traumatic Experiences and Psychiatric Symptoms on the Life Satisfaction of North Korean Refugees

Author(s): Yeonsun CHOI ; Sun Young LIM ; Jin Yong JUN ; So Hee LEE ; So Young YOO ; Soohyun KIM ; Ah Reum GWAK ; Ji-Chul KIM ; Yu Jin LEE ; Seog Ju KIM


Background: Successful adaptation of refugees to a new society can be hindered by traumatic experiences and psychiatric symptoms. This study aims to examine the relationship between trauma, psychiatric symptoms and life satisfaction of North Korean refugees resettled in South Korea. Methods: A total of 211 North Korean refugees living in South Korea completed a series of questionnaires on the history of their previous traumatic experiences, life satisfaction in South Korea, depression, anxiety, somatization and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Results: North Korean refugees who had experienced more traumatic events were less satisfied with their economic status in South Korea. Severe depression, anxiety, somatization or PTSD symptoms negatively correlated with their overall satisfaction in South Korea. In the stepwise regression model including all psychiatric symptoms and the number of traumatic experiences as dependent variables, only anxiety, but not trauma, predicted lower life satisfaction in South Korea. Conclusions: Traumatic experiences of North Korean refugees negatively affected the life satisfaction, especially the economic satisfaction, in South Korea. Since the negative effect of trauma was mainly mediated by psychiatric symptoms, the strategy of relieving psychiatric symptoms of traumatized refugees may help the adaptation of refugees.

Tags: North Korea, South Korea, Refugees, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, Somatisation, Psychosomatic complaints, Traumatic life events, Well-being

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