Surviving the holocaust: A meta-analysis of the long-term sequelae of a genocide

Efrat Barel, Marinus H. Van IJzendoorn*, Abraham Sagi-Schwartz, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The current set of meta-analyses elucidates the long-term psychiatric, psychosocial, and physical consequences of the Holocaust for survivors. In 71 samples with 12,746 participants Holocaust survivors were compared with their counterparts (with no Holocaust background) on physical health, psychological well-being, posttraumatic stress symptoms, psychopathological symptomatology, cognitive functioning, and stress-related physiology. Holocaust survivors were less well adjusted, as apparent from studies on nonselected samples (trimmed combined effect size d = 0.22, 95% CI [0.13, 0.31], N = 9,803) and from studies on selected samples (d = 0.45, 95% CI [0.32, 0.59], N = 2,943). In particular, they showed substantially more posttraumatic stress symptoms (nonselect studies: d = 0.72, 95% CI [0.46, 0.98], N = 1,763). They did not lag, however, much behind their comparisons in several other domains of functioning (i.e., physical health, stress-related physical measures, and cognitive functioning) and showed remarkable resilience. The coexistence of stress-related symptoms and good adaptation in some other areas of functioning may be explained by the unique characteristics of the symptoms of Holocaust survivors, who combine resilience with the use of defensive mechanisms. In most domains of functioning no differences were found between Israeli samples and samples from other countries. The exception was psychological well-being: For this domain it was found that living in Israel rather than elsewhere can serve as a protective factor. A biopsychological stress-diathesis model is used to interpret the findings, and future directions for research and social policy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-698
Number of pages22
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Volume136
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Holocaust
  • Meta-analysis
  • Resilience
  • Survivors
  • Traumatization

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