The Differential Impact of Terrorism on Two Israeli Communities


  • This research was supported by Grant R21 MH074501 from the National Institute of Mental Health awarded to Brett Litz. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health.


The authors evaluated 2 cohorts of individuals from different Israeli communities (Sderot and Otef Aza) that are repeatedly subjected to potentially lethal missile attacks. Although both communities border the Gaza Strip and face similar levels of threat, the authors hypothesized that the Sderot cohort would endorse higher rates of stress-related symptoms because it has fewer mitigating economic and psychosocial resources. The authors further hypothesized that there would be a significant relationship between exposure to terror and psychopathology regardless of community context. To test these predictions, the authors compared the levels of exposure to terror, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression in representative samples of adults from the 2 communities (n = 298 and n = 152, respectively). Residents of Sderot had a much higher rate of probable PTSD (35.2% vs. 6.6%), and community context was the most important predictor of PTSD and depression. The study also revealed a significant relationship between exposure and psychopathology, but for Sderot residents only. The conclusion is that researchers, mental health workers, and policy makers should pay attention to the influence of community characteristics, such as the availability of resources, the general sense of support, and the level of solidarity, on the mental health response to exposure to terror.