Ukrainian citizens display high resilience amid heavy fighting - study

Ukrainians’ national resilience is higher than that displayed by Israelis during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

People knee while members of the Honour Guard hold carry a coffin with the body of Ukrainian serviceman and famous ballet dancer Oleksandr Shapoval, during a funeral ceremony outside the National Opera of Ukraine in Kyiv, Ukraine September 17, 2022. (photo credit: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)
People knee while members of the Honour Guard hold carry a coffin with the body of Ukrainian serviceman and famous ballet dancer Oleksandr Shapoval, during a funeral ceremony outside the National Opera of Ukraine in Kyiv, Ukraine September 17, 2022.
(photo credit: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)

Ukrainians have a relatively high level of national resilience – 4.35 on a scale from one to six – a study from Tel Aviv University found.

The researchers also found that the Ukrainian people, currently fighting the Russian invasion, show significantly higher rates of resilience than Israeli citizens did at the height of Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021 (only 3.89 out of six).

According to the researchers, while Ukrainians now find themselves fighting for their homeland and are ready to do anything to win the war, the rounds of fighting in Gaza have become a kind of recurrent nuisance for Israelis, accompanied by a moderate level of national resilience.

The study was led by Prof. Bruria Adini and Prof. Shaul Kimhi of the ResWell Research Center at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. The study has not yet been published in a journal, but it has been sent for review to two scientific publications, Frontiers in Public Health and Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

According to the authors, the uniqueness of the study is it constitutes the first attempt by academic researchers to assess Ukrainian citizens’ positive and negative coping indices during wartime.

 Civilians train to throw Molotov cocktails to defend the city, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine March 1, 2022. (credit: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters) Civilians train to throw Molotov cocktails to defend the city, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine March 1, 2022. (credit: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)

What did the study discover?

The study indicates that, in such conditions of conflict, a population may experience high levels of stress and, simultaneously, high levels of societal resilience and hope for the future.

In Ukraine, the population has also demonstrated much support for their government, as they are well aware that their lives, families and futures are on the firing line.

The study surveyed about a thousand Ukrainians, who constituted a representative sample of society in that country, as well as a sample of about 650 Israelis using data collected during Operation Guardian of the Walls.

The findings suggest that the danger, in the eyes of Ukrainians, is perceived as much more tangible (3.7 on a scale of one to five) than Israelis’ perception of danger in the rounds of fighting against Hamas in Gaza (2.45). The perception of threat among Ukrainians is also more significant (3.29) than among the citizens of Israel (2.79) on a scale of one to five.

Despite the significant dangers and the threats they face, Ukrainians have not lost hope, with their “hope index” being higher (an average of 3.95) than that of Israelis (an average of 3.5).

With regards to demographics, the conclusions that have emerged from the study are that the population between the ages of 26 to 30 present higher levels of stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms compared to other age groups. In addition, women reported higher levels of all negative coping mechanisms when compared to men.

The perception of a threat as existential to the survival and sovereignty of the state and society is likely, under certain conditions, to enhance the population’s societal resilience and sense of hope,” Adini and Kimhi explained.

“This is the case even when the population feels anxious and threatened by the situation. Moreover, it appears that the war launched by Russia against Ukraine has actually contributed to the process of Ukrainian identity-building, which also leads to increased levels of resilience, as well as an extremely high sense of hope.

“Israelis, unlike the Ukrainian people, do not feel that their country is under a direct existential threat and have to a certain degree adapted to an ‘emergency routine’ due to the recurrent conflicts. In light of this, they present lower levels of resilience relative to Ukrainians, but at the same time higher levels of well-being and morale.”

Adini and Kimhi also said that "Israelis, unlike the Ukrainian people, do not feel that their country is under a direct existential threat and have to a certain degree adapted to an ‘emergency routine’ due to the recurrent conflicts. In light of this, they present lower levels of resilience relative to Ukrainians, but at the same time higher levels of well-being and morale.”