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Holocaust Survivors in Old Age: The Jerusalem Longitudinal Study

Authors

  • Jochanan Stesssman MD,

    1. From the *Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel and; Hypertension Unit, Department of Medicine, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, IsraelGeriatric Division, Ministry of Health, Israel and; §Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
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  • Aaron Cohen MD,

    1. From the *Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel and; Hypertension Unit, Department of Medicine, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, IsraelGeriatric Division, Ministry of Health, Israel and; §Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
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  • Robert Hammerman-Rozenberg MD,

    1. From the *Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel and; Hypertension Unit, Department of Medicine, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, IsraelGeriatric Division, Ministry of Health, Israel and; §Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
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  • Michael Bursztyn MD,

    1. From the *Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel and; Hypertension Unit, Department of Medicine, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, IsraelGeriatric Division, Ministry of Health, Israel and; §Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
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  • Daniel Azoulay MD,

    1. From the *Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel and; Hypertension Unit, Department of Medicine, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, IsraelGeriatric Division, Ministry of Health, Israel and; §Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
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  • Yoram Maaravi MD,

    1. From the *Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel and; Hypertension Unit, Department of Medicine, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, IsraelGeriatric Division, Ministry of Health, Israel and; §Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
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  • Jeremy M. Jacobs MBBS

    1. From the *Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel and; Hypertension Unit, Department of Medicine, Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, IsraelGeriatric Division, Ministry of Health, Israel and; §Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.
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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: ERRATUM Volume 56, Issue 9, 1785, Article first published online: 3 September 2008

  • Parts of the findings were presented at the International Conference on Social and Health issues among Holocaust Survivors (Hebrew), Israel, 2006, and as a poster presentation to the 60th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, 2007 (abstract/poster).

Address correspondence to Dr. Jeremy M. Jacobs, Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Hadassah University Hospital Medical Center, Mt. Scopus, P.O. Box 24035, Jerusalem 91240, Israel. E-mail: jacobs4@bezeqint.net

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To examine the hypothesis that Holocaust exposure during young adulthood negatively affects physical aging, causing greater morbidity, faster deterioration in health parameters, and shorter survival.

DESIGN: A longitudinal cohort study of the natural history of an age-homogenous representative sample born in 1920/21 and living in Jerusalem.

SETTING: Community-based home assessments.

PARTICIPANTS: Four hundred fifty-eight subjects of European origin aged 70 at baseline and 77 at follow-up.

MEASUREMENTS: Comprehensive assessment of physical, functional, and psychosocial domains; biographical history of concentration camp internment (Camp), exposure to Nazi occupation during World War II (Exposure), or lack thereof (Controls); and 7-year mortality data from the National Death Registry.

RESULTS: Holocaust survivors of the Camp (n=93) and Exposure (n=129) groups were more likely than Controls (n=236) to be male and less educated and have less social support (P=.01), less physical activity (P=.03), greater difficulty in basic activities of daily living (P=.009), poorer self-rated health (P=.04), and greater usage of psychiatric medication (P=.008). No other differences in health parameters or physical illnesses were found. Holocaust survivors had similar rates of deterioration in health and illness parameters over the follow-up period, and 7-year mortality rates were identical. Proportional hazard models showed that being an elderly Holocaust survivor was not predictive of greter 7-year mortality.

CONCLUSION: Fifty years after their Holocaust trauma, survivors still displayed significant psychosocial and functional impairment, although no evidence was found to support the hypothesis that the delayed effects of the trauma of the Holocaust negatively influence physical health, health trajectories, or mortality.

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