O’Rourke, Norm, Yaacov G. Bachner, Philippe Cappeliez, Habib Chaudhury, and Sara Carmel. “Reminiscence Functions and the Health of Israeli Holocaust Survivors as Compared to Other Older Israelis and Older Canadians.” Aging & Mental Health 19.4 (2015): 335-46.
Objectives: Existing research with English-speaking samples indicates that various ways in which older adults recall their past affect both their physical and mental health. Self-positive reminiscence functions (i.e. identity, problem-solving, death preparation) correlate and predict mental health in later life whereas self-negative functions (i.e. bitterness revival, boredom reduction, intimacy maintenance) correlate and predict the physical health of older adults.
Method: For this study, we recruited 295 Israeli Holocaust survivors to ascertain if early life trauma affects these associations between reminiscence and health. In order to distinguish cross-national differences from survivor-specific effects, we also recruited two comparative samples of other older Israelis (not Holocaust survivors; n = 205) and a second comparative sample of 335 older Canadians. Three separate structural equation models were computed to replicate this tripartite reminiscence and health model.
Results: Coefficients for self-negative functions significantly differed between survivors and both Canadians and other older Israelis, and between Canadians and both Israeli samples. However, no differences were found between prosocial and self-positive functions. Moreover, the higher order structure of reminiscence and health appears largely indistinguishable across these three groups.
Conclusion: Early life trauma does not appear to fundamentally affect associations between reminiscence and health. These findings underscore the resilience of Holocaust survivors.