SUNDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The suffering experienced
by Holocaust survivors still leaves psychological scars but appears
to have little effect on their cognitive functioning and physical
health, according to a new international study.
Researchers from Israel and the Netherlands also found that
Holocaust survivors living in Israel have better psychological
health than those living in other countries, which suggests that
living in Israel may serve as a protective factor.
"Six decades after the end of World War II and we are still learning how a mass genocide like the Holocaust is affecting its victims," lead author Efrat Barel, a psychology professor at the Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel, said in an American Psychological Association news release.
"What we've found is that they have the ability to overcome their traumatic experiences and even to flourish and gain psychological growth, but it many not be as easy as it seems," Barel added.
Barel and colleagues analyzed the findings from 71 studies that
were conducted over 44 years (1964 to 2008) and compared Holocaust
survivors and control groups from the general population.
The analysis showed that Holocaust survivors had poorer
psychological well-being, more symptoms of post-traumatic stress
and more symptoms of mental illness. Holocaust survivors living in
Israel had better psychological well-being and social adjustment
than those living in other countries.
There were no significant differences in cognitive functioning
or physical health between Holocaust survivors and those in the
"The psychological scars of Holocaust survivors are evident in their continued experience of post-traumatic symptoms, but these experiences have not necessarily prevented their ability to adapt to day-to-day life," co-author Abraham Sagi-Schwartz, a dean of social sciences at Haifa University, said in the news release. "It's possible these survivors repressed a lot of these traumatic memories in the immediate aftermath of the war and instead focused on rebuilding their lives and raising new families."
The study appears in the journal
The authors added that these findings are particularly relevant
for most of the survivors who were children during the Holocaust.
"The current findings call for special attention to the care of
these survivors," said co-author Marinus Van IJzendoorn of Leiden
University in the Netherlands. "As they approach old age, they face
new challenges, including retirement, declining health and losing a
spouse, and this may reactivate their extreme early stresses."
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies explains