Israeli Study Finds Holocaust Survivors More Susceptible to Comorbidities Decades After Liberation

At the Hall of Names in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Greek rescuer Melpomeni Dina, 92, reunites with (left) Sarah Yanai, 86, one of the survivors she saved during the Holocaust, Nov. 3, 2019. Photo: Eliana Rudee.

i24 News – A recently published long-term study has shown that the effects of psychological and physical trauma can have echoes and repercussions even decades after the events themselves.

Dr. Iaroslav Youssim and Dr. Hagit Hochner of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s School of Public Health led the study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and investigated mortality rates from specific diseases over the course of many years among Israel-based Holocaust survivors.

The researchers analyzed death records of approximately 22,000 people who were followed-up from 1964 to 2016 and compared the rates of mortality from cancer and heart disease among survivors to the rates in individuals who did not live under Nazi occupation.

Among women survivors, the study found a 15% higher rate of overall mortality and a 17% higher chance of dying from cancer, according to the study.

Among men, while overall death rates of the survivors were not appreciably different, mortality from cancer during the studied period was 14% higher among the survivor population and remarkably, the rate of mortality from heart disease was 39% higher.

Youssim explained that even if survivors were able to make their way to Israel after the end of hostilities and rebuild their lives with new families, the research showed that any early experiences of Nazi rule negatively affected their mortality rates.

“This study supports prior theories that survivors are characterized by general health resilience combined with vulnerabilities to specific diseases.”

Hochner added, “These findings reflect the importance of long-term monitoring of people who have experienced severe traumas and elucidates mortality patterns that might emerge from those experiences.”

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