Blood pressure among immigrants to Israel from areas affected by the Chernobyl disaster

Julie G. Cwikel, John R. Goldsmith, Ella Kordysh, Michael Quastel, Anna Abdelgani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objectives: To validate and analyze apparent association of hypertension with exposures to radiation at Chernobyl among immigrants to Israel from the contaminated areas. Methods: Data were collected in 1991 and 1994 from two samples of persons who immigrated to Israel from the contaminated zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The first sample were self-referred for evaluation in a clinic by whole-body cesium measurement, physical examination, and questionnaire (N=756, 328 from less exposed and 438 from more exposed areas). The second wave data were collected in 1994 during home interviews for evaluation of psychosocial factors associated with their experience (N=708, 121 from more exposed and 253 from less exposed areas). In the second study a referent group was included (n=334) who were matched by age, sex, and year of immigration who immigrated from other areas outside of the contaminated zone. Estimates of exposure were based on the IAEA map of ground-level cesium isotope (137Cs) contamination. Results: In the 1991 sample, 21% from high exposure areas and 16% from less exposed areas had elevated systolic blood pressure (>140 mmHg). Elevated diastolic blood pressure (>90 mmHg) had a similar difference between more and less exposed groups (21% and 16%). Age-and sex-specific analyses showed that statistically different levels were found in the older age groups. In the 1994 sample, we confirmed a relationship between exposure and elevated blood pressure. 33% of those from the more exposed areas and 34% of those from less exposed areas had elevated systolic blood pressure, compared with 23% of the comparison group, with a similar trend found in diastolic blood pressure. The relationship between exposure and blood pressure was accentuated in the group of respondents who had high scores on PTSD symptoms. Of the psychological variables analyzed, systolic blood pressure was most strongly related to cancer-related anxiety and somatization. A discriminant function analysis showed that three variables: age, reporting a significant loss from the Chernobyl accident, and fear of cancer correctly differentiated 72% of those with normal and high blood pressure. Conclusion: There is a relationshhip between exposure to Chernobyl and high blood pressure, partly due to the psychological reactions to accident.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-335
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Health Reviews
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 1997


  • Chernobyl
  • Hypertension
  • Immigrants
  • Israel
  • Radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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