Author(s): Yagur A, Grinshpoon A, Ponizovsky A
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The threat to the individual's physical integrity and well-being as well as to those of significant others, the disruption of normal patterns of life, and property losses make wartime a highly stressful condition. OBJECTIVES: To assess the level of psychological distress in primary care attenders in a district of Jerusalem (Gilo) that experienced long-term exposure to gunfire. METHODS: A self-administered questionnaire exploring emotional distress (anxiety and depression symptoms), gunfire exposure, patterns of help-seeking behavior, and prescription of sedative or hypnotic drugs was administered to a sample of 125 consecutive attenders to a general practitioner during a 10 week period in the autumn of 2001. Eighty-four attenders residing in Gilo were compared with 41 attenders residing in neighborhoods that had not been under fire. T-tests and Mann-Whitney two-sample tests were used to determine statistical significance of differences. RESULTS: The mean distress score was significantly higher among the Gilo residents than among their counterparts in other neighborhoods (1.1 +/- 0.8 vs. 0.8 +/- 0.5, t = 1.73, P < 0.01); 15.5\% of the former reported probable clinically significant distress. Emotional distress was associated with periods of intensive gunfire exposure, psychological care-seeking behavior, and the prescription of sedative or hypnotic drugs. No significant differences in distress levels were found between those living in zones of Gilo that were at differential gunfire risk, nor between those whose houses and cars were or were not damaged. CONCLUSIONS: War-related life events would seem to be associated with elevated emotional distress. A motivated primary care physician could easily and reliably ascertain the attenders' psychological status and identify those requiring psychological support. These identification and intervention stages are facilitated if the specialized services are community-based.
This article was published in Isr Med Assoc J
and referenced in Emergency Medicine: Open Access