Subjective well-being: gender differences in Holocaust survivors-specific and cross-national effects

Aging Ment Health. 2017 Jun;21(6):668-675. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2016.1148660. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Objectives: Subjective well-being (SWB) has become an important concept in evaluating older adults' quality of life. The cognitive and emotional evaluations which are used to appraise it differ in structure, characteristics, and effects on life. The purpose of this study was to support hypotheses regarding expected Holocaust survivors-specific effects and cross-cultural differences on three indicators of SWB.

Method: We recruited samples of 50 male and female Israeli Holocaust survivors, other older Israelis, and older Canadians (N = 300) for allowing us to distinguish survivors-specific effects from cross-national differences. State anxiety, depressive symptoms, and life-satisfaction were compared across groups of men and women. Where univariate differences were detected, post hoc comparisons were computed to determine which of the groups significantly differed.

Results: In general, a higher level of SWB was found among Canadians in comparison to both comparative Israeli groups. Level of depressive symptoms was significantly higher among women survivors than in the other two groups. Both groups of Israeli women had higher scores on anxiety than Canadian Women; less apparent were differences across groups of men. Life-satisfaction did not differ among the groups.

Conclusions: Our findings regarding depression support the survivor-specific effect hypothesis for women, and a national effect on anxiety, but not any effect on life-satisfaction. These findings suggest significant differences in impacts of traumatic life events on cognitive versus emotional indicators of SWB. This issue should be further investigated due to its practical implications in use of various measures of SWB with people who experienced traumatic events.

Keywords: Anxiety; Holocaust survivors; depressive symptoms; life-satisfaction; mental health; subjective well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Canada
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Holocaust / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sex Factors*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*