The Paradox of Well-Being and Holocaust Survivors

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BACKGROUND: Life satisfaction is a core component of well-being. Across age groups, satisfaction with life was found to be integral to individual mental and physical health. Surprisingly, there appears to be little or no association between age and life satisfaction. Recent longitudinal research suggests that life satisfaction may even increase in late life. This is known as the paradox of well-being. OBJECTIVE: To compare levels of life satisfaction reported by Israeli Holocaust survivors (HS) vis-à-vis other older Israelis and older Canadians. DESIGN: We interviewed 295 HS, 205 other older Israelis, and 335 older Canadians each of whom completed the Life Satisfaction Scale with items measuring both concurrent and retrospective aspects. Separate confirmatory factor analytic models were computed for each group. RESULTS: Overall, levels of life satisfaction were indistinguishable across groups. Both concurrent and retrospective items contributed significantly to measurement of a single latent construct. Yet differences between groups in the latent structure of response to certain scale items emerged. CONCLUSIONS: It may be that HS report high life satisfaction not despite, but because of, experiencing early life trauma, juxtaposing early years with the comparatively good conditions of their lives today.

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