Holocaust survivors up to 39% more likely to die of heart disease, study suggests

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Burning candles in a row in the dark with copy space.
Nearly seven in 10 Jews in Europe are said to have been murdered due to their identity. (Stock, Getty Images)

Survivors of the Holocaust may have been left with lingering health complications, research suggests.

Nazi rule caused millions to endure physical and emotional abuse, malnutrition and disease exposure.

The survivors' health appears to have also been impacted long after the concentration camps were liberated.

Scientists from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem analysed around 22,000 people between 1964 and 2016, of whom over 5,000 survived Nazi occupation.

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Results reveal the survivors were up to 39% more likely to die from heart disease than those were not victims of the fascist regime.

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Deaths from heart disease were found to be higher among Holocaust survivors. (Stock, Getty Images)

"Our research showed people who experienced life under Nazi rule early in life, even if they were able to successfully migrate to Israel and build families, continued to face higher mortality rates throughout their lives," said co-lead author Dr Iaroslav Youssim.

"This study supports prior theories that survivors are characterised by general health resilience combined with vulnerabilities to specific diseases.

"These findings reflect the importance of long-term monitoring of people who have experienced severe traumas and elucidates mortality patterns that might emerge from those experiences."

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The Holocaust was a period in history during World War II, from 1939 to 1945.

Germany's Nazi party, led by Adolf Hitler, killed millions, many of whom were Jewish. Nearly seven in 10 Jews in Europe were said to be murdered due to their identity.

Many of those freed from the camps died as a result of poor health.

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To better understand the lasting health complications faced by Holocaust survivors, the Hebrew University scientists analysed the death records of tens of thousands of people.

More than 5,000 of the participants were Israelis born in European countries under Nazi control, while the remainder were Israelis of European descent "without this exposure".

The female survivors were found to have a 15% higher overall death rate between the 1946 to 2016 study period.

They were also 17% more likely to die from cancer specifically.

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Among the men, the overall death rate was similar between the Holocaust survivors and the control group.

The male survivors' cancer mortality specifically was 14% higher, however.

They were also "remarkably" 39% more likely to die of heart disease, the results suggest.

"Study of mortality associated with exposure to the Holocaust is relevant for better understanding the effects of man-made massive killings on survivors," the scientists wrote in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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