Is at War
Haifa U
© Abducted and Missing Families ForumHaifa University Campus
Haifa University reports 60% of Israelis who weren't directly affected by Hamas war develop severe acute stress disorder and even PTSD...

Seventy-three days have passed since Hamas' attack and the outbreak of the war in Gaza, and the sights and stories continue to haunt everyone in Israel. The scope of the tragedy and the number of victims has led to a significant increase in distress and mental health disorders, which the victims and their families are grappling with, but it does not just affect them. A new study from the University of Haifa indicates a large number of Israelis have been impacted mentally by the war even if they weren't harmed by it directly.

According to the study's findings, about 60% of Israelis who aren't in the first two circles of those directly affected by the war have developed severe acute stress disorder (ASD), which poses a risk for the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

These are individuals who aren't residents of communities close to the Gaza border or other towns physically affected by the war, or who have had their property damaged. They also don't have family members who were harmed, killed or abducted since the war began.

Dr. Svetlana Baziliansky, the study's lead author, explains:
"The high percentage of those suffering from ASD as a result of the current war is higher than any other events and wars that took place in Israel's history."
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© Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty ImagesIsraelis respond to rocket sirens in Tel Aviv
The researchers explained that ASD is an emotional and mental disorder caused by direct exposure to traumatic events, such as witnessing an event, being physically injured, or having one's property damaged. It can also result from indirect exposure to a traumatic event, such as exposure via media.
The disorder appears within three days to a month after the event, causing anxiety, fear, depression and repeated experiences of traumatic events, such as flashbacks or nightmares, and attempts to avoid thinking about the event or arriving at the place where the event took place in order to reduce emotional distress. There are also physiological responses, such as an increased heart rate and an intensified release of stress hormones. All these factors lead to significant difficulties in daily routine. Furthermore, the researchers found that, as the participants' age increased, the likelihood of developing ASD decreased.
Many Israelis will require emotional and psychological treatment

The study was conducted by Baziliansky and Dr. Wafaa Sowan from Haifa University's School of Social Work. They wanted to examine the prevalence of acute stress disorder among Israelis and possible indicators that could warn of the disorder, focusing on those who didn't directly experience the traumatic events.
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The study found that 60% of participants suffer from acute stress disorder. According to the researchers, this is an unusually high figure, considering that the study looks into a population that wasn't directly exposed to the horrors of war.
"A very small number of other studies worldwide, conducted while looking into populations in war zones or disaster sites, reached such high percentages in the third circle of those impacted. We expect that a very high percentage of the population in Israel will require both emotional and medicinal treatment in the near future, which may create a significant burden on the mental health system in the country."
In addition to this study, in recent weeks findings from other new academic studies indicate a significant increase in mental distress in Israelis since October 7. Among them is a new study from the Israeli Center for Suicide Research, whose data shows that the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder has doubled, rising from 16% before the massacre to 30% following it. Depression and anxiety rates have also increased dramatically, reaching almost 45%.

As the figures continue growing, questions have been raised about who will care for such a large number of affected Israelis, especially since Israel's mental health services have been burdened even in the days preceding the war.

According to the Movement for Public Psychiatry in Israel:
"The war exposed the ongoing neglect of mental health services for Israeli citizens. Unfortunately, essential psychological services for victims and their families have often relied on volunteers who, despite their dedication, aren't a fitting substitute for an organized public service."
Higher anxiety rates than all other military operations

Another study conducted by Tel Aviv University and Tel Hai Academic College indicates that in the two months since the outbreak of the war, there has been a significant decrease in signs of distress characterized by anxiety and depression in the public. However, the number of people showing these symptoms still remains higher than those seen in studies taken in the past, such as during Operation Protective Edge.

The study was carried out by a team made up of Professor Shaul Kimhi and Professor Bruria Adini from Tel Aviv University's Department of Emergency and Disaster Management, and Professor Yohanan Eshel and Hadas Marciano from Tel Hai Academic College. The study is based on a sample of 2,002 respondents from the Hebrew-speaking adult population.

The researchers conducted two measurements in October after the start of the war and an additional measurement two months later. From the data, it's evident that while the initial measurement showed very high emotional distress symptom rates in the population (18% high, 46% moderate, and 36% low), in the second measurement there was a noticeable decrease in emotional distress (13% high, 40% moderate, and 47% low).

However, when comparing the data from the second measurement to measurements taken during previous military operations, the researchers found that the emotional distress in the war is still higher. For example, during Operation Protective Edge, 11% of respondents reported a high sense of distress, 27% moderate, and 62% low.

The researchers explain these findings by noting that, compared to previous crises, the levels of distress are higher because October 7 is marked as an unprecedented military failure.

Marciano explained:
"The Israeli public has been accustomed to a series of rounds of fighting for years, including missile launches from enemy territory into the country, fighting along the borders, operations deep within enemy territory, and in rare occasions limited infiltrations of terrorists into Israel.

"However, the Israeli public had not experienced such a large number of terrorists entering the country before. Therefore, the intensity and scope of the incident, the failure of security forces to respond quickly enough, and the subsequent security incidents, all leave the public in a relatively low emotional state that includes symptoms of anxiety and depression to a greater extent than in the past."
The researchers noted that these findings align with previous studies conducted in Israel and around the world, such as in Ukraine, indicating that even in extreme crisis situations the majority of the population is capable of adapting and learning to live alongside it.

Comment: Given the frequency of provocations, Israeli normalcy bias has been steadily cultivated.