Does early life trauma affect how depression is experienced by Holocaust survivors in late life?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives: Existing research indicates that early life trauma increases the likelihood of depression in later life. This includes children who survived the Nazi Holocaust living in Israel today. For this study, we set out to examine whether early life trauma affects both levels of depression symptomatology and the relative prominence of certain facets of depression as compared to other older adults in Israel and Canada. Method: For this study we recruited 295 Holocaust survivors (HS), 205 other Israelis and 335 older Canadians each of whom completed Radloff's (1977) Center for Epidemiological Studies–Depression Scale (CES-D). The CES-D measures four distinct factors: Depressive affect, absence of well-being, somatic symptoms, and interpersonal rejection. Israeli and Canadian comparison participants were screened to ensure they had not experienced early life trauma. Results: As anticipated, levels of depressive symptoms reported by HS were significantly greater than other Israelis and older Canadians. Moreover, the latent structure of depression as measured by the CES-D differs for HS. Depressive affect and the absence of well-being appear to distinguish depression among HS. Somatic symptoms do not differ, however, and interpersonal rejection seems less germane to depression as experienced by HS compared to both comparison samples. Conclusion: Findings support our assertion that early life trauma affects not only levels of depressive symptoms but also that these survivors of genocide experience depression differently than other Israelis and older Canadians. We discuss the implications of early life trauma for mental health in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-668
Number of pages7
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 4 May 2018


  • Adverse childhood experience
  • Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D)
  • Holocaust survivors
  • Israel
  • confirmatory factor analysis
  • depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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