Holocaust exposure and late-life cognitive performance in men with coronary heart disease

Galit Weinstein*, Miri Lutski, Lital Keinan-Boker, Uri Goldbourt, David Tanne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Holocaust victims experienced extreme physical and mental stress that could lead to prolonged deficits in psychological and physiological well-being. We aimed to examine whether exposure to Holocaust conditions is associated with cognitive function and decline in a sample of old male adults with coronary heart disease (CHD). Methods: The sample included 346 individuals with CHD who participated in a clinical trial in 1990–1997 (mean age 56.7 ± 6.5 y). During 2004–2008 (mean age 71.8 ± 6.5 y) and 2011–2013 (mean age 77.1 ± 6.4 y) participants underwent computerized cognitive assessments. Exposure to Holocaust conditions was based on self-report at the second assessment. Linear regression and mixed-effect models were conducted to evaluate the associations between Holocaust survivorship and subsequent cognitive performance and rate of cognitive decline. Results: Forty-Three participants (12%) survived concentration camps/ghettos, 69 (20%) were Holocaust survivors who escaped concentration camps/ghettos, and 234 (68%) were not Holocaust survivors. After adjustment for potential confounders, concentration camp/ghetto survivors had poorer global cognitive performance and poorer attention (β = −3.90; 95%CI: 7.11;-0.68 and β = −4.11; 95%CI: 7.83;-0.38, respectively) compared to individuals who were not exposed to Holocaust conditions. Additionally, participants who reported being at concentration camps/ghettoes had increased cognitive decline in global performance and executive function (β = −0.19; 95%CI: 0.37;-0.008 and β = −0.29; 95%CI: 0.53;-0.06, respectively) compared to participants who were not Holocaust survivors. Lastly, those who were Holocaust survivors but not in concentration camps/ghettos had greater decline in attention (β = −0.11; 95%CI: 0.21;-0.01). Discussion: Exposure to Holocaust conditions in early-life may be linked with poorer cognitive function and greater cognitive decline decades later in old-adults with CHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Cognitive function
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Holocaust
  • Risk factors


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