Body image dissatisfaction as an important contributor to suicidal ideation in Korean adolescents: gender difference and mediation of parent and peer relationships

Dong-Sik Kim
Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2009, 66 (4): 297-303

OBJECTIVES: This study was to examine not only the contribution of body image dissatisfaction to suicidal ideation, according to gender, but the mediating role of parent and peer relationships on the association between body image dissatisfaction and suicidal ideation.

METHODS: Data from the 2004 Korean Education and Employment Panel, a school-based survey administered to a nationally representative sample of Korean adolescents, are used in the study. With the exception of participants with missing data on important questions (suicidal ideation, self-evaluated body image, self-reported weight/height, risk factors related to suicide), information from 5426 students (2896 males and 2530 females) in grades 9 and 12 was separately analyzed along gender lines using multivariate logistic regression.

RESULTS: In both genders, body image dissatisfaction contributed to suicidal ideation, after controlling for covariates (i.e., school type, perceived family economic hardship, parent-related negative life events, delinquent behaviors, unhealthy behaviors, and self-efficacy). Such association existed throughout all body mass index ranges, and underweight males and normal females were most vulnerable to suicidal ideation if they are dissatisfied with their bodies. Parent and peer relationships partially mediated the association between body image dissatisfaction and suicidal ideation in both genders, but these effects were very small.

CONCLUSIONS: How adolescents evaluate their body image may be an important indicator of suicidal ideation. Future research should further test the link between body dissatisfaction and suicidal ideation, even after controlling for other important forms of psychopathology known to be associated with these issues.

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