Comparison of Mortality and Comorbidity Rates Between Holocaust Survivors and Individuals in the General Population in Israel

Naama Fund, Nachman Ash, Avi Porath, Varda Shalev, Gideon Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Importance: Previous studies have suggested that Holocaust survivors may experience different chronic comorbidities more often than the general population. However, the mortality hazard among these individuals has not been addressed. Objective: To assess the overall mortality rate and comorbidities of a cohort of Holocaust survivors compared with an age-matched control group. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study included all Holocaust survivors insured by Maccabi Healthcare Services in Israel who were born between 1911 and 1945 in Europe and control individuals born in Israel during the same years and insured by the same service. Data were collected from January 1, 1998, through December 31, 2017. Outcomes and Measures: Rates of morbidities and mortality rates adjusted for sex, socioeconomic status, and body mass index using logistic regression, Cox regression, and Kaplan-Meier analysis. Results: The 38 597 Holocaust survivors included 22 627 women (58.6%) and had a mean (SD) age of 81.7 (5.4) years, and the 34 931 individuals in the control group included 18 615 women (53.3%) and had a mean (SD) age of 77.7 (5.3) years. The Holocaust survivors had higher rates than control individuals of reported hypertension (32 038 [83.0%] vs 23 285 [66.7]), obesity (12 838 [33.3%] vs 9254 [26.5]), chronic kidney disease (11 929 [30.9%] vs 6927 [19.8]), cancer (11 369 [29.5%] vs 9721 [27.8]), dementia (6389 [16.6%] vs 3355 [9.6]), ischemic heart disease, nonmyocardial infarction (5729 [14.8%] vs 4135 [11.8]), myocardial infarction (3641 [9.4%] vs 2723 [7.8]), and osteoporotic fractures among women (6429 [28.4%] vs 4120 [22.1]). In contrast, the overall mortality rate was lower among Holocaust survivors (25.3%) compared with the control group (41.1%). After adjustment for confounders, mean age at death was significantly higher in the survivor group compared with the control group. Conclusions and Relevance: The findings showed higher rates of comorbidities and lower mortality among Holocaust survivors, which may be associated with a combination of improved health literacy and unique resilience characteristics among Holocaust survivors. More research is needed to explore the biologic and psychosocial basis for these results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e186643
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number1
StatePublished - 4 Jan 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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