Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 849-859

First online:

The long-term implications of war captivity for mortality and health

  • Zahava SolomonAffiliated withBob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University Email author 
  • , Talya GreeneAffiliated withBob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University
  • , Tsachi Ein-DorAffiliated withNew School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC)
  • , Gadi ZerachAffiliated withDepartment of Behavioral Sciences, Ariel University Center of Samaria
  • , Yael BenyaminiAffiliated withBob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University
  • , Avi OhryAffiliated withSackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv UniversitySection of Rehabilitation Medicine, Reuth Medical Center

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The current study aims to (1) assess the long-term impact of war captivity on mortality and various health aspects and (2) evaluate the potential mediating role of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms. Israeli ex-prisoners of war (ex-POWs) (N = 154) and a matched control group of combat veterans (N = 161) were assessed on health conditions and self-rated health 18 years post-war (1991: T1). The whole population of ex-POWs, and the T1 sample of controls were then contacted 35 years after the war (2008: T2), and invited to participate in a second wave of measurement (ex-POWs: N = 171; controls: N = 116) Captivity was implicated in premature mortality, more health-related conditions and worse self-rated health. PTSD and depressive symptoms mediated the relationship between war captivity and self-rated health, and partially mediated the relationship between war captivity and health conditions, and these effects were amplified with age. Aging ex-POWs who develop psychiatric symptomatology should be considered a high-risk group entering a high-risk period in the life cycle. It is important to monitor ex-POWs and provide them with appropriate medical and psychological treatment as they age.


Prisoners of war Health Posttraumatic stress disorder Depression Mortality