Increased rate of depression and psychosomatic symptoms in Jewish migrants from the post-Soviet-Union to Germany in the 3rd generation after the Shoa

E Ullmann, A Barthel, Julio Licinio, K Petrowski, S Bornstein, B Strauss

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    The mental health status of persons with Jewish background living in Germany is discussed with special regard to social exclusion like anti-Semitism and overprotective parental rearing behavior, as a transmissional factor of the KZ-Syndrome. These stressors are considered in the context of a higher risk for depression/fear and psychosomatic disorders and also abnormal cortisol levels. The present sample (N=89) is derived from the Jewish population currently living in the German region of Saxony aged between 17-36 years that emigrated from the post-Soviet-Union areas. The mean age was 22.9 years. Two questionnaires to detect psychosomatic symptoms (Giessen complaint list (GBB)-24, hospital anxiety and depression scale) and one questionnaire addressing parental rearing behavior (FEE) were employed. Comparisons were drawn with normative data from the literature about the German residential population. In addition, questions were asked concerning the experience of anti- Semitism in Germany and in the post-Soviet-Union areas. A higher prevalence of depression/fear (10.3% versus 18.2%) and psychosomatic symptoms (M=14.03 versus 17.8; t=2.42; Po0.05) was observed in Jewish migrants to Germany as compared with non-Jewish German residents. Furthermore, anti-Semitic experiences in Germany correlated positively with depression (r=0.293; Po0.01) and fear (r=0.254; Po0.05). The anti-Semitic experiences in the post-Soviet-Union areas also correlated positively with limb pain (r=0.41, Po0.01), fatigue symptoms (r=0.296, Po0.01) and psychocardial symptoms (r=0.219, Po0.05). It was also confirmed that the male respondents recalled a controlling and overprotecting maternal rearing behavior more frequently than the German standard random sample (M=15.39 versus 18.6; t=2.68; Po0.01). The latter also correlated significantly positive with epigastric pain (r=0.349; Po0.01). The present results show that depression, fear and psychosomatic problems are common in Jewish residents with a background of migration from the post-Soviet-Union areas to Germany. Apart from the transgenerational passing of psychological traumata and the Holocaust experiences, other stressors like anti-Semitism, control and overprotection as parental rearing measures appear to be important factors specifically contributing to the pathogenesis of the attributed symptoms.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere241
    Pages (from-to)e241
    Number of pages3
    JournalTranslational Psychiatry
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Anti-Semitism
    • Depression
    • Holocaust
    • Intergenerational transmission of trauma
    • Psychosomatic symptoms
    • Recalled parental rearing behavior


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