Chronic health conditions in Jewish Holocaust survivors born during world war II

Lital Keinan-Boker, Hadas Shasha-Lavsky, Sofia Eilat-Zanani, Adi Edri-Shur, Shaul M. Shasha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Findings of studies addressing outcomes of warrelated famine in non-Jewish populations in Europe during the Second World War (WWII) confirmed an association between prenatal/early life exposure to hunger and adult obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and the metabolic syndrome. Fetal programming was suggested as the explanatory mechanism. Objectives: To study the association between being born during WWII in Europe and physical long-term outcomes in child Holocaust survivors. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study on all Jewish Clalit Health Services (CHS) North District members born in 1940–1945 in Europe (‘exposed’, n=653) or in Israel to Europe-born parents (‘non-exposed’, n=433). Data on sociodemographic variables, medical diagnoses, medication procurement, laboratory tests and health services utilization were derived from the CHS computerized database and compared between the groups. Results: The exposed were significantly more likely than the non-exposed to present with dyslipidemia (81% vs. 72%, respectively), hypertension (67% vs. 53%), diabetes mellitus (41% vs. 28%), vascular disease (18% vs. 9%) and the metabolic syndrome (17% vs. 9%). The exposed also made lower use of health services but used anti-depressive agents more often compared to the non-exposed. In multivariate analyses, being born during WWII remained an independent risk marker for hypertension (OR = 1.52), diabetes mellitus (OR = 1.60), vascular disease (OR = 1.99) and the metabolic syndrome (OR = 2.14). Conclusions: The results of this cross-sectional study based on highly validated data identify a high risk group for chronic morbidity. A question regarding potential trans-generational effects that may impact the ‘second generation’ is also raised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-212
Number of pages7
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Israel Medical Association. All rights reserved.


  • Health conditions
  • Holocaust survivors
  • Long-term effects
  • World war II

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Chronic health conditions in Jewish Holocaust survivors born during world war II'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this