Cumulative adversity and depressive symptoms among older adults in Israel: the differential roles of self-oriented versus other-oriented events of potential trauma

  • Dov ShmotkinEmail author
  • Howard Litwin
Original Paper



The study examined the association between cumulative adversity and current depressive symptoms in a national sample of Israelis aged 50+. Referring to cumulative adversity as exposure to potentially traumatic events along life, the study distinguished between events primarily inflicted upon the self (self-oriented adversity) versus upon another person (other-oriented adversity).


Data were drawn from the Israeli component of the Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). During 2005–2006, 1710 Jews and Arabs completed an inventory of potentially traumatic events and two measures of depressive symptoms: the European Depression scale (Euro-D) and the Adapted Center for Epidemiological Studies—Depression scale (ACES-D). The Euro-D is more detailed in querying cognitions and motivations while the ACES-D is more detailed in querying feelings and social alienation.


In line with the hypothesis, self-oriented adversity had a positive association with depressive symptoms whereas other-oriented adversity had either no association or an inverse association with depressive symptoms. Sociodemographic characteristics and perceived health were controlled in the multivariate regressions.


The differential association of self- versus other-oriented adversity with depressive symptoms may be explained in terms of social commitments that are inherent in other-oriented adversity and incompatible with depressive symptoms. The study points to the variations in the symptom compositions represented by the Euro-D and ACES-D, with the latter better capturing the difference between self- and other-oriented adversities.


Cumulative adversity Depressive symptoms Trauma Life events Aging 



The SHARE (Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe) data collection in Israel was funded by the US National Institute on Aging (R21 AG2516901), by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (G.I.F.), and by the National Insurance Institute of Israel. Further support by the European Commission through the 6th framework program (projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, and COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857) is gratefully acknowledged. We are thankful to Eli Sapir for the indispensable help in handling the database and to Rany Abend for the devoted assistance in conducting the statistical analyses.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, The Herczeg Institute on AgingTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Israel Gerontological Data Center, Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social WelfareThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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