Parental PTSD and psychological reactions during the COVID-19 pandemic among offspring of Holocaust survivors

This article was originally published here

Psychol Trauma. 2021 Mar 1. doi: 10.1037/tra0001014. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: Previous evidence suggests heightened sensitivity to life-threatening challenges among offspring of Holocaust survivors (OHS). Therefore, this study examined the psychological reactions of aging OHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHOD: A convenience sample (N = 297, mean age = 66.85) of North American Jews rated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms for their parents and for themselves. They further rated their psychological distress, COVID-19-related worries, loneliness, and social support. Respondents were divided into four groups: OHS with two parents with probable PTSD, with one such parent, with no such parent, and comparisons whose parents did not undergo the Holocaust.

RESULTS: OHS with two parents with PTSD reported the highest levels of PTSD symptoms. Controlling for respondents’ own PTSD, OHS with two parents with PTSD reported higher psychological distress relative to comparisons. Moreover, OHS with parental PTSD reported higher loneliness relative to OHS without parental PTSD or comparisons. The groups did not differ in COVID-19-related worries or social support.

CONCLUSIONS: The distress experienced by OHS with parental PTSD seems more general, and is possibly related to the multiple coalescing crises that occurred since the pandemic began, rather than to the health risk associated directly with COVID-19. Moreover, while OHS acknowledge having good social support, some of them nevertheless feel lonely. This possibly reflects unique interpersonal difficulties characteristic in Holocaust survivor families. These findings suggest that OHS with parental PTSD (especially when both parents had symptoms) represent a group of older adults who are relatively susceptible to negative psychological effects of the current pandemic. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID:33646805 | DOI:10.1037/tra0001014