Although previous studies have shown that childhood parental death influences suicide attempts of their offspring, few studies have examined influence of gender and age at exposure. Koreans show the third highest suicide rate in the world, and many children and adolescents lost their parents during and after the Korean War. A total of 12,532 adults, randomly selected through a one-person-per-household method, completed the Korean version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and questionnaire for suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt (response rate 80.2%). A total of 2,332 subjects experienced biological parental death in childhood (18.6%). Male suicide attempts were associated with age of exposure to maternal death from 0 to 4 years (adjusted OR = 4.48, 95% CI 1.32–15.18) and from 5 to 9 years (adjusted OR = 5.52, 95% CI 1.97–16.46), but not with paternal death, after adjusting for age, education years, marital status, monthly income, and psychiatric comorbidities. Female suicide attempts were associated with paternal death from 5 to 9 years (adjusted OR = 2.20, 95% CI 1.13–4.27), but not with maternal death. Childhood parental death is significantly associated with lifetime suicide attempt in the opposite-gender offspring, especially when exposure occurs before age 10.
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