Posttraumatic growth and perceived health: The role of posttraumatic stress symptoms

Yael Lahav, Zahava Solomon, Yafit Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The contested discourse regarding the nature of posttraumatic growth (PTG) includes 2 main competitive claims. The first argues that PTG reflects authentic positive transformation while the second posits that PTG reflects illusory defenses that could be maladaptive in the long run. The present study assesses these competing claims by investigating secondary PTG in relation to the somatic domain. Specifically, this study investigates: (a) the association between PTG, and perceived health (PH), as measured by 3 indices of somatic complaints, self-rated health (SRH) and a number of health problems; (b) the association between PTG, posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and PH over time; and (c) the mediating role of PTSS between PTG and PH, among wives of former prisoners of war (ex-POWs) and wives of control veterans. Assessments were conducted 30 (T1) and 38 (T2) years after the Yom Kippur War. Results showed that wives of ex-POWs endorsed higher PTSS, higher PTG and poorer PH, compared to control wives. Higher PTG was associated with higher PTSS and poorer PH. PTG at T1 predicted an increase in PTSS between T1 and T2, which in turn was correlated with poorer PH. PTSS at T2 as well as changes in PTSS from T1 to T2 mediated the association between T1 PTG and T2 PH measures. The present findings imply that PTG might have negative implications on PH through the amplification of PTSS, among secondary trauma victims. It seems that although spouses of trauma victims describe benefits resulting from vicarious trauma exposures, their body indicates differently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-703
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016


  • Perceived health
  • Posttraumatic growth
  • Posttraumatic symptoms
  • Prisoners of war
  • Secondary traumatization

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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