Coping with the Gulf war: Subculture differences among ischemic heart disease patients in Israel

Sara Carmel, Ilan Koren, Reuben Ilia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to assess short term effects of the Gulf war on ischemic heart disease patients of different ethnic origin. Three dimensions of patients' reactions to the war situation were studied: psychological, physical and behavioral. The study first focused on changes in patients' responses on these dimensions over three stages of the war, differentiated according to degree of threat. Second, differences stemming from ethnic origin were examined among patients who live in the same geographical region, use the same health services and were exposed to the same threatening life event. One hundred ischemic heart disease patients were interviewed while waiting in outpatient hospital clinics for a regular examination at the end of the war. The results of intrapersonal comparisons showed that the intensity of responses, as expected, increased significantly on the three dimensions from the week before the war started to the first week of the war, which was the most stressful period for Israelis. During the last week of the war, however, when stress was significantly reduced, the expected change was found primarily with regard to psychologic responses. That is, worries were significantly reduced, but no significant reduction in frequency of anginal pain and in drug consumption followed, indicating differences in the adjustment process on the psychologic and physical levels. Subcultural differences were found in the studied responses: Patients of Asian or North African countries of origin reported having more frequent anginal pains, and consuming more drugs than patients from Western countries. The increase in physical symptoms indicates that a stressful event has immediate harmful physical effects on chronically ill people, which might increase in the long run. This supports the life events theory. The severity of these aversive responses varies among the different ethnic groups, probably due to cultural differences in learned coping patterns. Such findings have important practical applications for identifying groups or individuals at risk, and for planning preventive intervention programs for periods of social crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1481-1488
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1993


  • coping with stressors
  • coronary heart disease
  • illness behavior
  • life events
  • subcultures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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