The elderly constitute a vulnerable group for psychopathology, yet research on their mental health among both Arab and Jews in Israel remains limited. The same is the case in Arab countries. This paper reports on the contrasting distribution of the mean emotional distress (ED) scores and rates of suspected clinical cases, and their related risk factors, among community residents over the age of 60.
Several national agencies conducted a survey on 5,055 elderly individuals to investigate their health status, including ED. The interview included socio-demographic and behavioral health items, as well as a modified 12 item-GHQ as a measure of ED. Total ED scores and prevalence rates for suspected psychopathology were calculated. Their respective risk factors were examined using univariate and multivariate methods.
The ED scores were highest among Muslim Arabs (4.9), followed by Christian Arabs (4.2), Jews (3.1) and Druzes (2.8). Their estimated prevalence rates were 43.4%, 37.0%, 21.4%, and 17.0%, respectively. The gradient of these results remained unchanged in the multivariate analysis for ED scores adjusting for confounding variables. In contrast, logistic regression analysis controlling for confounding variables did not find a differential risk for suspected psychopathology between Arabs and Jews.
Conceivably, the higher demoralization scores among elderly Arabs are associated with their minority status affiliation, as well as with the rapid social changes that have taken place in their midst. A cultural response style may be entertained as a possible explanation. However, these factors do not impact the risk for suspected psychopathology where no differential risk was noted after adjustments for confounders. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.