Psychological reactions to the coronavirus pandemic : a comparative study of Holocaust survivors and other older adults in Israel


The current study examines psychological reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic among older adults living in Israel. Based on the ‘life events, stress, coping and health theory,’ we hypothesized that due to their traumatic early life history and dearth of emotional and physical coping resources, Holocaust survivors would be more vulnerable than other older adults to the negative effects of this difficult and prolonged life event on their mental health.



Based on structured questionnaires with closed questions, we interviewed 306 Holocaust survivors and non-survivors aged 75 + during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Univariate data analysis showed that Holocaust survivors had fewer coping resources in terms of health status and educational level than non-survivors. As expected, Holocaust survivors also reported a greater extent of COVID-19-related anxiety, and more depression, which worsened during the pandemic. However, both groups did not differ in their will to live, which is an indicator of general well-being and commitment to continue living. In multivariate analyses conducted to explain COVID-19 anxiety in the entire sample and separately on each of the two groups, the best explanatory variables were other psychological variables especially increased depression.



It seems that Holocaust survivors are more emotionally vulnerable to the pandemic’s negative effects than other older adults, in support of the ‘life events, stress, coping and health theory,’ but despite this, they show resilience in their will to continue living. Policy makers and practitioners are recommended to identify Holocaust survivors and other vulnerable older people and investigate their specific needs. Interventions should include practices for maintaining and boosting resilience and well-being by increasing appropriate emotional and cognitive internal and external coping resources, especially during prolonged periods of hardship.

Sara Carmel, Yaacov G. Bachner and Ella Cohn‑Schwartz | 2022
In: BMC Psychiatry ; ISSN: 1471-244X | 22 | 438
Adults, Affected Populations, Anxiety Disorders, Coping Behavior, COVID-19 (en), Depressive Disorders, Elderly, Holocaust (en), Israelis, Mental health, Natural Disasters, Quality of Life, Research, Stressors