Holocaust Survivors With PTSD Have Adult Offspring With Lower Cortisol Levels


If your parents were Holocaust survivors with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) you most likely will have lower levels of stress hormone cortisol, compared to offspring of parents without PTSD, says a report in Archives of General Psychiatry (JAMA/Archives), September issue.

The writers explained that biological differences observed in people with PTSD, including low cortisol levels, may either result from exposure to a traumatic event or might be there before such an event and predispose the patient to PTSD. The authors added “Once identified, such risk factors may prove to be useful as predictors of who will develop PTSD after exposure to trauma, or they may even identify potential new targets for prophylaxis (preventive therapy) and treatment.”

Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and James J. Peters, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, New York, and team looked at 33 people whose parents had lived through the Holocaust. They were divided into groups based on whether or not at least one parent suffered from PTSD – the offspring had to complete a questionnaire. Of the 33 participants, 23 had a parent(s) with PTSD, and 10 had no parents with PTSD. The volunteers’ blood cortisol levels were measured every 30 minutes over a 24-hour period. None of the volunteers suffered from PTSD at the time of the study.