PTSD caused far from rocket fire during Lebanon War

Haifa University study finds PTSD even among residents of areas never hit during war.

Lebanon war 224.88 (photo credit: AP )
Lebanon war 224.88
(photo credit: AP )
Many Central region residents who did not come under Hizbullah rocket fire during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 nevertheless suffer from "high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)," according to a study carried out at the University of Haifa in cooperation with Boston University trauma researchers. An article by University of Haifa Prof. Eli Zomer and colleagues has just appeared in the prestigious International Journal of Psychology. "Although we found that the level of post-traumatic stress was much higher among residents of Kiryat Shmona," which suffered many rocket hits, "we were surprised by the high levels of stress among residents who weren't exposed at all to the rockets," they wrote. Zomer, who conducted the study with doctoral student Aviva Zarihan-Weizman, examined 317 residents of Kiryat Shmona, which was struck by 520 rockets, and compared them with residents of Kfar Yona in the center of the country, which has a similar population but was not targeted by rockets. They examined them for PTSD symptoms, including rapid pulse, sleep difficulties, recurrent flashbacks from the war, nightmares and attempts to avoid situations that reminded them of the traumatic events such as watching TV news. While 38 percent of the Kiryat Shmona residents had a high level of PTSD symptoms during the war, fully 12% of those in Kfar Yona reported the same problems. The researchers found that the longer a person's difficult personal experience with war or terrorism, the lower the risk that he will suffer from PTSD. This means that Israelis' exposure to violent incidents such as Hizbullah fire or terrorist attacks creates immediate emotional stress, but it fortifies and improves their coping in the future. The experience of settlements near Gaza "points to the fact that the civilian population is likely to be attacked by rockets and missiles in the next war. To understand better the implications of the population's exposure to such threats, it's important to learn from experience that has been accumulated in Israel," Zomer said.