Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS on 18 March, 2024

Older Israelis Show Higher Resilience Than Young Adults to War Stress, Study Finds

Public By Pesach Benson • 27 March, 2024

Jerusalem, 27 March, 2024 (TPS) -- Bar-Ilan University researchers investigating the psychological toll of war on Israelis found older adults showed greater resilience to acute stress and post-traumatic stress disorder than younger adults.

The findings, recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychiatric Research, underscore the diverse responses to war across different age groups.

Acute stress is typically short-lived and subsides once the cause of the stress is removed or the individual adapts to the situation. However, prolonged exposure to acute stressors without adequate coping mechanisms or support can potentially lead to more severe psychological issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or chronic stress-related conditions.

The Bar-Ilan study spanned from November to December 2023 and engaged 428 participants utilizing the Qualtrics online platform, social media, and other avenues to ensure a broad spectrum of respondents. The research team, led by Professor Amit Shrira, found significant variances in the experiences of young adults, aged 20-59, and older adults, aged 60-87.

“This study provides valuable insights into how different age groups respond to traumatic events. Despite the challenges posed by the Israel-Hamas war, older adults demonstrated remarkable resilience compared to their younger counterparts,” Shrira said.

During the initial phase of the conflict, young adults reported alarmingly high levels of acute stress symptoms, with nearly a quarter experiencing distress. As the conflict persisted, the prevalence of probable PTSD among this group surged to 42.8%. In stark contrast, older adults exhibited markedly lower rates of acute stress (3.7%) in the initial phase, with 13.7% reporting probable PTSD in subsequent weeks.

“Older adults exhibited impressive resilience during the tumultuous period of the Israel-Hamas conflict. This suggests that despite experiencing declining physical, cognitive, and social resources, older adults may still possess other resources that aid in coping with traumatic events,” Shrira explained.

He emphasized the importance of recognizing and harnessing the strengths of older adults in times of crisis.

“We should encourage and empower them to cope with present challenges by focusing on their capabilities and resources,” he said. “Adopting a strength-based perspective can help care providers impart belief in older adults’ ability to overcome crisis, but it’s also important to bear in mind that older adults may have different reactions to stress, so an individual approach is crucial.”

Shrira aims to delve further into specific groups of older adults, including Holocaust survivors, veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and internally displaced individuals, to gain deeper insights into their mental health responses.