Survivors of the Holocaust suffer from worse health outcomes than the general population even decades after the Nazi atrocities.
The damaging effects of life under Nazi rule have long been understood, but the new research from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that those who survived suffer worse health outcomes from cancer and heart disease.
Researchers analysed death records of approximately 22,000 people who were followed-up from 1964 to 2016 and compared the rates of mortality from cancer and heart disease among survivors to the rates in individuals who did not live under Nazi occupation.
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, revealed among women survivors, found a 15% higher rate of overall mortality and a 17% higher chance of dying from cancer.
Among men, while overall death rates of the survivors were not different from those of the unexposed, mortality from cancer during the studied period was 14% higher among the survivor population.
Remarkably the rate of mortality from heart disease was 39% higher.
“Our research showed that people who experienced life under Nazi rule early in life, even if they were able to successfully migrate to Israel and build families, continued to face higher mortality rates throughout their lives,” Dr Iaroslav Youssim, one of the study’s authors, said.
“This study supports prior theories that survivors are characterised by general health resilience combined with vulnerabilities to specific diseases.”
A co-author, Dr Hagit Hochner, added: “These findings reflect the importance of long-term monitoring of people who have experienced severe traumas and elucidates mortality patterns that might emerge from those experiences.”
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