Why Holocaust Survivors May Have Longer Lifespans
Candy-maker Yisrael Kristal, 110, became the oldest known survivor of the Holocaust after Alice Herz-Sommer died at the age of 110 on Sunday, report Israeli media. Herz-Sommer, a pianist, was considered the oldest known survivor before her death.
Their long life spans are impressive, and it seems they may not be the only Holocaust survivors to enjoy a long life after great trauma.
“Genocidal trauma is associated with longer life-expectancy,” according to a 2013 study published by the Public Library of Science in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE. In other words, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
It’s counter-intuitive that these people who went through great physical and mental hardships tend to live longer. But, the study looked at the official records of about 40,000 survivors who immigrated to Israel and compared their life spans to a group of about 13,000 Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel before the war.
“We found that against all odds genocidal survivors were likely to live longer,” the report states. It suggests two reasons for the longer life span.
First, it could be posttraumatic growth.
“This may be considered an illustration of the so-called posttraumatic growth that is observed to occur, for example, in soldiers having experienced combat-related trauma but finding greater meaning and satisfaction in their later lives because of those experiences and also in Holocaust child survivors experiencing more social support from friends,” the report explains.
Second, it could be differential mortality.