Stress-Related Responses After 3 Years of Exposure to Terror in Israel: Are Ideological-Religious Factors Associated With Resilience?
J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(9):1146-1154
© Copyright 2014 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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Background: The inhabitants of 3
different types of population centers in Israel were
assessed as to stress-related symptomatology
during 2003 and 2004. These centers have been
exposed to 2 distinct forms of violence-sporadic,
large-scale terror attacks in the metropolitan areas
in the heart of Israel and daily "war-zone"
conditions in the settlements beyond the 1967
borders of Israel.
Method: A semistructured interview and
questionnaire survey of a random sample of 314 inhabitants of a suburb of Tel-Aviv, a settlement
in the West Bank (Kiryat-Arba), and the Gush-Katif settlement cluster in the Gaza Strip was
performed. Symptoms of acute stress and chronic (posttraumatic) stress as well as symptoms
of general psychopathology and distress were assessed.
Results: The inhabitants of Gush-Katif,
in spite of firsthand daily exposure to violent attacks, reported the fewest and least severe
symptoms of stress-related complaints, the least
sense of personal threat, and the highest level of
functioning of all 3 samples. The most severely
symptomatic and functionally compromised were the inhabitants of the Tel-Aviv suburb, who were
the least frequently and least directly affected by
exposure to violent attacks. Because the
Gush-Katif population is exclusively religious, the data
were reassessed according to religiousness. The
religious inhabitants of Kiryat-Arba had almost
the same symptom profile as the Gush-Katif population, whereas secular inhabitants of
Kiryat-Arba reported faring worse than did either
population in the Tel-Aviv suburb.
Conclusion: Deeply held belief systems
affecting life-views may impart significant resilience to developing stress-related problems,
even under extreme conditions. Religiousness combined with common ideological convictions
and social cohesion was associated with
substantial resilience as compared to a secular
metropolitan urban population.