Although war captivity is a potent pathogen for psychiatric illness, little is known about the long-term trajectories of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among ex-prisoners of wars (ex-POWs). This study aimed to assess the long-term trajectories of PTSD and their predictors following war captivity. Three follow-ups (1991, 2003, 2008) were conducted over 35 years of 164 Israeli ex-POWs and185 comparable combatants from the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Ex-POWs reported higher PTSD rates than controls at all three assessments. Four trajectories of PTSD were identified: chronic PTSD, delayed PTSD, recovery and resilience. The majority of POWs reported delayed PTSD, while the majority of controls were classified as resilient. While PTSD rates remained relatively stable over time among controls, a steep increase in rates was observed among POWs between 1991 and 2003, followed by stabilization in rates between 2003 and 2008. Finally, subjective experience of captivity was the variable that best distinguished between the resilience and PTSD groups of ex-POWs, followed by participation in previous wars and negative life events during childhood. War captivity carries long-lasting psychiatric implications, even decades after release. Aging processes, as well as unique stressors that exist in Israel, may account for the elevated PTSD rates found here.
- Combat disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder