Maternal exposure to the holocaust and health complaints in offspring

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Abstract

Although the link between chronic stress and the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases of adulthood has been known for some time, there is growing recognition that early environmental influences may result in developmental programming via epigenetic mechanisms, thereby affecting the developmental trajectory of disease progression. Previous studies support the idea that offspring of Holocaust survivors may have been subjected to early developmental programming. We evaluated the relationship between parental exposure to the Holocaust and self-reported health ratings and disorders made by their adult offspring (i.e., second generation Holocaust survivors). A total of 137 subjects were evaluated. Regression analyses demonstrated that maternal but not paternal exposure to the Holocaust was related to poorer subjective impressions of emotional and physical health. This relationship was diminished when the offspring’s own level of trait anxiety was considered. Offspring with maternal, but not paternal, Holocaust exposure also reported greater use of psychotropic and other medications, including medications for the treatment of hypertension and lipid disorders. The mechanism linking these health outcomes and maternal exposure deserves further investigation, including the possibility that fetal or early developmental programming is involved.

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Flory, J. D., Bierer, L. M., & Yehuda, R. (2011). Maternal exposure to the holocaust and health complaints in offspring. Disease Markers, 30(2–3), 133–139. https://doi.org/10.3233/DMA-2011-0748

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