Israeli civilians under heavy bombardment: Prediction of the severity of post-traumatic symptoms

Eli Somer, Aviva Zrihan-Weitzman, Tiffany Fusé, Holly Parker, Ben Dickstein, Shira Maguen, Brett T. Litz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Context: The military conflict that occurred between Lebanon and Israel in July and August of 2006 was characterized by the heavy bombardment of specific geographic regions in Israel, resulting in considerable civilian casualties and property damage. Objective: Israeli civilians directly and indirectly exposed to bombardment were compared on exposure to the recent bombardment, trauma history, perceived life threat and peritraumatic dissociation during the recent bombardment, and current post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity.Design, Setting, and Participants: Following the conflict, data were collected by telephone from 317 Israeli residents randomly selected from two towns that were subject to differing levels of exposure to the bombardment.Intervention(s): NoneMain Outcome Measure(s): Exposure to trauma during the Second Lebanon War, prior trauma exposure, PTSD symptom severity, perceived life threat, and peri-traumatic dissociation. Results: The residents directly affected by the bombardment (Kiryat Shmona; KS) endorsed more trauma exposure, (p <0.01); more prior trauma, (p <0.01); more life threat, (p <0.01); and greater PTSD symptomatology (12 % of KY participants and 38% of KS participants had probable PTSD), compared to residents in the comparison town (Kfar Yona; KY). Both groups reported a similar degree of peri-event dissociation (KS: M = 7.2 ±3.7; KY: M = 7.3 ±3.0). Perceived life threat mediated the relationship between exposure to bombardment and PTSD symptomatology. Time spent in bomb shelters was not associated with PTSD symptom severity. Prior shelling-related trauma negatively predicted PTSD. Conclusions: The terror of bombardment is a risk factor for PTSD among civil-ians. Although there is considerable resilience in chronically threatened commu-nities, it is prudent to develop and implement public health approaches to prevent those most distressed during and after attacks from developing PTSD. Because, to a small degree, prior trauma exposure buffers the response to bombardment, interventions should consider leveraging citizens' past successful coping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-394
Number of pages6
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Volume24
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study wasfinanced by a special emergency grantfrom the University ofHaifa Office ofthe Dean of Research and a giftfrom a private donor.

Keywords

  • bombardment
  • dissociation
  • Israeli civilians
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • resilience
  • war

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency

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