Health Scan: Gaza settlers less prone to stress, study finds

Before pullout, settlers were in better state than Israeli-born young adults who did not live in Gaza settlements.

gaza settlers 88 (photo credit: )
gaza settlers 88
(photo credit: )
An Israeli study of demoralization and stress among Gaza settlers a month before disengagement has found that while they were at higher risk for emotional distress than Israeli-born young adults who did not live in Gaza settlements, they were in better emotional states than new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, evacuees from Ophira (Sharm e-Sheikh) in Sinai after the peace agreement with Egypt, and Holocaust survivors. The team also found that being female, a lower educational level, higher risk perception, greater alienation from the government, poorer perceived health, being secular and having no social support inside the Green Line were linked to higher rates of stress. Prof. Itzhak Levav, a senior psychiatrist in the Mental Health Services Department and an adviser to the World Health Organization, carried the study out with Dr. Miriam Billig, a Samaria resident who works in the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel. The study, just published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, was financed by Brown University in Rhode Island and assisted by Dr. Robert Kohn of Brown. A month before disengagement, the Israeli team interviewed 290 people, or one person per household residing in 13 settlements and randomly selected for a telephone interview. They found that positive current satisfaction with life among the soon-to-be displaced settlers was associated with greater place attachment, less risk perception, stronger ideological stand, less feeling of alienation from the government, a more positive view of the future and stated plans to return. The team were inspired to do their research after hearing claims by lawyers representing Gaza settlers that they were liable to be turned by disengagement into "emotional cripples." The team plans to do a followup of the settlers, with Brown University funding, now that several months have passed since disengagement. BETTING IT'S A GENE Problem gambling runs in families, according to a University of Iowa study published in Psychiatry Research. The study - the first of its kind to include detailed interviews of relatives of pathological gamblers - also found an excess of alcoholism, drug disorders and antisocial personality disorder in families with pathological gamblers. Psychiatry Prof. Donald Black of the University of Iowa's College of Medicine, said: "Something is being passed along in these families that increases a persons' likelihood of engaging in impulsive and ultimately self-destructive behavior. In some persons, it manifests as substance abuse, in others as antisocial behavior, and in others as gambling, and often the three are combined. Black, who with colleagues has studied pathological gambling for the past eight years, conducted interviews of 31 pathological gamblers and 31 controls, and their respective first-degree relatives (parents, siblings and children). "We looked at first-degree relatives because they theoretically share 50 percent of their genes with the pathological gambler or the control subject. If this disorder runs in families, it is most likely to cluster in those that you share more of your genes with," Black said. Demonstrating that gambling runs in families is the first step in finding the gene or genes that underlie it, and Black hopes this study will lead to molecular genetic studies of pathological gambling. Further, Black believes that helping patients understand that pathological gambling runs in families will help them break the cycle. The study found the average age of onset of pathological gambling was 36 years. For men, the average was 34, while for women the problem developed later, with an average age of onset of 39. Black said women have a "compressed course," meaning that while they start gambling later, it reaches maximum severity more quickly. More than half the pathological gamblers interviewed were either single, divorced or widowed. "Pathological gamblers tend to have chaotic lives," Black said. "And when you add in other factors like alcoholism or antisocial personality disorder, marital dysfunction becomes more understandable."