Subjective Age and Health in Later Life: The Role of Posttraumatic Symptoms

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Abstract

Objectives:

We examined: (a) long-term effects of war-related trauma and captivity on posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), physical health, and subjective age; and (b) the moderation effect of PTSS and health on subjective age among ex-prisoners of war (ex-POWs) and war veterans.

Method:

Israeli veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War (mean age 57 years), including 111 ex-POWs and 167 matched veterans were assessed for subjective age, war-related PTSS, and health-related measures (physical symptoms, somatization, health-risk behaviors, and self-rated health).

Results:

Controlling for age, ex-POWs endorsed higher subjective age than controls, and ex-POWs with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) endorsed higher subjective age than ex-POWs and controls without PTSD. PTSS and health measures besides health-risk behaviors predicted subjective age. Significant interactions were found between PTSS and each health measure, suggesting that health only predicts subjective age for those reporting high PTSS.

Discussion:

PTSS appear to be implicated in the link between health measures and subjective age in later life, pointing to the long-term effect of captivity and war-induced traumatic distress on aging.

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