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J Affect Disord. 2007 Nov;103(1-3):121-9. Epub 2007 Feb 8.

Wartime stressors and mental health symptoms as predictors of late-life mortality in World War II survivors.

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  • 1Department of Medical Psychology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. i.bramsen@tiscali.nl



Pathways through which wartime stress leads to excess mortality have not been examined so far. The current study examines wartime stress in relation to late-life mortality among 1448 World War II survivors, and potential mediating effects of mental health symptoms that were assessed in 1992.


In 1992, a community survey was held. In 2002, vital status was checked.


The highest hazard rates of mortality were found among military veterans and war survivors who had been seriously wounded. Posttraumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts, and, particularly, depression were associated with a higher hazard rate. Depression, anxiety, and somatic complaints appeared to act as mediators between the wartime stressor 'permanent disability or illness' and survival time.


The results may not be generalizable to all World War II survivors since the sample was restricted to those who survived until 1992. In addition, there was a considerable level of non-response, and the study used self-report data on wartime exposure and psychological symptoms.


Exposure to wartime stress as well as mental health symptoms in the long-term aftermath of war and violence are significant predictors of late-life mortality. Wounded survivors and those with a permanent disability or illness are particularly vulnerable.

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