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Social Connectedness Moderates the Relationship Between Warfare Exposure, PTSD Symptoms, and Health Among Older Adults.

Authors
  • Schwartz, Ella
  • Shrira, Amit
Type
Published Article
Journal
Psychiatry
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2019
Volume
82
Issue
2
Pages
158–172
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1080/00332747.2018.1534521
PMID: 30403929
Source
Medline
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Objective: The goal of the current study is to examine whether social connectedness among older adults mitigates the risk of poor health due to exposure to warfare and related symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Prior research has indicated a protective role for social connectedness in the face of trauma in general. However, this same association has not been examined among older adults exposed to warfare, even though they are potentially a more vulnerable population with unique social needs. Method: The study used cross-sectional data from the Israeli component of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE-Israel; N = 1,557, mean age = 69.03, age range = 50 to 105). It employed a composite scale of social connectedness, data on exposure to war-related events during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, and ensuing symptoms of PTSD. Social connectedness, warfare exposure, and PTSD symptoms were used to predict physical and mental health, as well as engagement in health behaviors. Results: Warfare exposure and PTSD symptoms were related to worse health. Moreover, social connectedness moderated this association, such that persons suffering from PTSD symptoms suffered less from worse health when they were highly connected. This trend was found for physical and mental health and in relation to health behaviors. Conclusions: While war-related PTSD is indeed related to poorer health, social connectedness moderates the strength of the association. Practitioners should be aware of the protective role of social connectedness in the context of warfare exposure in old age, and intervention programs with this population should strive toward bolstering social connections.

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