Older Adults Exposed to Ongoing versus Intense Time-Limited Missile Attacks: Differences in Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Amit Shrira*, Dov Shmotkin, Yuval Palgi, Yaakov Hoffman, Ehud Bodner, Menachem Ben-Ezra, Howard Litwin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The potentially different psychological effects of ongoing trauma vis-à-vis an intense time-limited exposure to trauma have not been examined in older adults. Therefore, this study examined posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and their health concomitants in two groups of older adults in Israel: those exposed to ongoing missile attacks and those exposed to an intense time-limited period of missile attacks. Method: In the third administration of the Israeli component of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE-Israel), 297 older adults reported ongoing exposure to missile attacks due to the Israel–Gaza conflict (mean age = 66.97), while 309 older adults reported exposure to an intense period of missile attacks during the Second Lebanon War (mean age = 66.63). Participants completed measures of PTSD symptoms, and physical, cognitive, and mental health. Results: Older adults with ongoing exposure reported higher PTSD symptom level relative to those with intense time-limited exposure. The groups also differed in health variables related to PTSD symptoms. Namely, impaired physical and cognitive health were related to a higher level of PTSD symptoms in ongoing exposure, while impaired mental health was related to a higher PTSD symptom level following intense time-limited exposure. Conclusions: The findings suggest that physical and cognitive health involves resources that are vital for daily survival when living under ongoing warfare threat, whereas mental health involves resources that are needed in dealing with psychological effects of warfare trauma. Accordingly, different interventions may be necessary when helping older adults exposed to ongoing versus intense time-limited trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-78
Number of pages15
JournalPsychiatry (New York)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2017


FundersFunder number
Ministry of Senior Citizens
National Institutes of Health
National Institute on AgingR01AG031729
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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