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Elderly Israelis experienced much less acute stress and fewer PTSD symptoms than younger members of the population.

By Shula Rosen

According to a study, elderly Israelis are showing less stress and higher resilience during the current war than younger members of the population.

Researchers at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) headed by clinical psychologist Prof. Amit Shrira measured acute stress and PTSD symptoms among Israelis in November and December 2023.

The study used Qualtrics, or online surveys, social media accounts, and other means to evaluate 428 Israelis of different age groups.

The researchers divided responses into two age groups–those between 20 and 59 and 60 and 87.

The study also made the distinction between acute stress symptoms which usually diminish with days or weeks and PTSD symptoms that are longer term and include rapid response to stimuli, avoidance of certain places, flashbacks and negative feelings.

In the period following October 7th, 24.8% of younger adults showed acute stress symptoms and 42.8% seemed to exhibit some PTSD symptoms.

By contrast, only 3% of elderly Israelis showed acute stress symptoms and just 13.7% exhibited potential PTSD symptoms.

Professor Shrira remarked about the results, “Despite the challenges posed by the war, older adults showed remarkable resilience compared to their younger counterparts.”

Prof. Shrira continued, “Older adults have exhibited impressive resilience during the tumultuous period of the Israel-Hamas conflict.”

“This means that despite experiencing declining physical, cognitive, and social resources, older adults may still have other resources that help them cope with traumatic events,” Shrira concluded.

The study offered some possible explanations for the lower levels of anxiety experienced by elderly Israelis during the Israel-Hamas war, including greater life experiences, gained wisdom and insight and emotional regulation skills.

Shrira said, “It’s important to recognize the strength and resilience of older adults, especially those who have experienced trauma.”

“We should encourage and empower them to cope with present challenges by focusing on their capabilities and resources,” Shrira continued.

The study was published to the Journal of Psychiatric Research under the title “Age differences in acute stress and PTSD symptoms during the 2023 Israel-Hamas war: Preliminary findings.”

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