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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Differentiated effects of social participation components on suicidal ideation across age groups in South Korea

Chaelin Karen Ra1 and Youngtae Cho12*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health and Environment, Seoul National University, 1 Kwanak-ro, Kwanak-gu, Seoul, South Korea

2 School of Public Health, Seoul National University, 1 Kwanak-ro, Kwanak-gu, Seoul, South Korea

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:890  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-890

Published: 25 September 2013



Suicide among adults in the Korean population merits study to improve the understanding of the salient risk and protective factors because suicide rates in Korea have increased dramatically over the past 20 years. However, the association between social participation and suicidal ideation is poorly understood. Thus, this study aimed to identify the components of social participation in Korean society and to examine the processes through which the components of social participation influence the degree of suicidal ideation people experience across age groups.


This study used survey data from the 2010 Seoul Welfare Panel Study. The sample population was restricted to adults aged 20 or older and was categorised into three groups by respondents’ ages. The groups were defined as 'young adults’ (aged 20–39), 'middle-aged adults’ (aged 40–64) and 'the elderly’ (age 65 or more). Three dimensions of social participation were identified by factor analysis – friendship network and hobby group, religious involvement, and instrumental social participation.


In the young adult group, only instrumental participation was statistically significant (-0.10, p = 0.06). In the middle-aged adult group, only friendship network and hobby group had a strong association with suicidal ideation (-0.11, p = 0.01). Interestingly, for the elderly, religious involvement was related to suicidal ideation, but in a positive way (0.26, p = 0.02).


The study results supported the theory that different components of social participation are associated with a lower risk of suicidal ideation in different stages of adulthood.

Social participation; Suicidal ideation; Age; Korean