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J Trauma Stress. 2014 Jun;27(3):345-52. doi: 10.1002/jts.21920.

Inflamed by the flames? The impact of terrorism and war on immunity.

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School of Political Science, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.


The physiological impact on citizens of prolonged exposure to violence and conflict is a crucial, yet underexplored, issue within the political science and biology literature. We examined the effect of high levels of exposure to rocket and terrorist attacks on biological markers of immunity and inflammation in a sample of 92 Israelis. A stratified random sample of individuals was drawn from a pool of subjects in Israel who had previously been interviewed regarding their stress exposure and psychological distress during a period of active rocket and terrorist attacks. These individuals were reinterviewed and blood samples were collected to assess antibodies to cytomegalovirus (CMV antibodies) and C-reactive protein (CRP). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was significantly related to CRP, β = .33, p = .034, with body mass index, depression, and exposure to terrorism included in the model. Depression scores were not significantly associated with CRP or CMV antibody levels. In contrast to the established convention that psychological distress is the sole outcome of terrorism exposure, these findings reveal that individuals exposed to terrorism experience higher levels of both PTSD/depression, and inflammation. This study has important ramifications for how policy makers and medical health professionals should formulate public health policies and medically treat individuals living in conflict zones.

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