Prior trauma, PTSD long-term trajectories, and risk for PTSD during the COVID-19 pandemic: A 29-year longitudinal study

Journal of Psychiatric ResearchSolomon Z, Mikulincer M, Ohry A, et al. | June 18, 2021

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Capitalizing on a 29-year longitudinal study with four previous assessments, researchers assessed two groups of Israeli veterans – ex-Prisoners-of-War (ex-POWs) of the 1973 Yom Kippur War and comparable combat veterans of the same war – during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim to determine the contributions of prior war captivity trauma, the appraisal of the current COVID-19 danger and its similarity with the prior trauma, and long-term trajectories of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to risk for PTSD during the pandemic. Prior data on their PTSD trajectory were retrieved 18, 30, 35, and 42 years after the war and exposure to stressful life events after the war. In present work, data on their PTSD was obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic and their appraisal of similarities of past trauma with the current pandemic. Greater vulnerability and significantly higher rates of PTSD and more intense PTSD were observed during the current pandemic among previously traumatized ex-POWs relative to comparable combat veterans. In addition, a greater likelihood for suffering from PTSD was recorded for veterans in both groups who perceived the current adversity (captivity, combat) as hindering their current coping relative to veterans who perceived it as a facilitating or irrelevant experience. In addition, chronic and delayed trajectories of PTSD among ex-POWs enhanced the risk for PTSD during the pandemic, and lifetime PTSD mediated the influences of war captivity on PTSD during the current pandemic. In view of these findings, they support the stress resolution perspective suggesting that the response to prior trauma – PTSD and its trajectories – raised the risk of PTSD after subsequent exposure to stress.

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