More than 60 years later: the mediating role of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder for the association of forced displacement in World War II with somatization in old age

Author(s): Philipp KUWERT ; Elmar BRAEHLER ; Harald Juergen FREYBERGER ; Heide GLAESMER


Up to now, it has remained unclear whether displacement itself is the pathogenetic factor for the impairment of mental health in uprooted individuals or whether the effect is mediated by the amount of traumatic events experienced during forced displacement and/or by the development of PTSD. A total of 1657 participants were included in this population-based study, who were then administered with the Patient Health Questionnaire, a modified trauma list of the PTSD module of the Munich Composite International Diagnostic Interview, and the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale. Displacement was associated with increased rates of traumatic events. The displaced participants were significantly more affected by somatoform symptoms and PTSD than the nondisplaced population. It was not displacement itself but the amount of trauma experienced during displacement that predicts current somatization in the population-based sample. The results highlight the necessity for prevention and treatment of posttraumatic conditions in displaced individuals and underpin the importance to understand somatization as one condition of the posttraumatic symptoms spectrum in the elderly.

Tags: forced displacement; World War II; somatization; elderly; trauma; geriatrics


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