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

Ella Schwartz, Amit Shrira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-172
Number of pages15
JournalPsychiatry (New York)
Volume82
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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