Immigrants from Chernobyl-affected areas in Israel: the link between health and social adjustment

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The concept of cumulative adversity is a useful tool in the study of migration under chronic stress from past traumas. Drawing on this concept, the study explored long-term health and psychosocial effects of past radiation exposure among survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster who immigrated to Israel during the 1990s. Self-rated health status and indicators of social adjustment were compared in two groups of Russian immigrants: 180 persons from Chernobyl-affected areas and 200 immigrants from other areas of the former USSR. The semi-structured questionnaire was administered by Russian-speaking sociology students and analyzed by both quantitative and qualitative methods. In line with earlier research, both the somatic and mental health of Chernobyl survivors were significantly worse than in other immigrants of the same gender and age; a significant share of reported health problems were probably psychosomatic. Depression, sense of stigma and cancer-related anxiety were more prevalent in the study group. Immigrants from contaminated areas tended to use more health services (both conventional and alternative), but were less satisfied with their quality and providers' attitude. The link between perceived health impairment and poorer social accommodation in the host country has been confirmed: Chernobyl-area immigrants experienced more severe occupational downgrading and were more disappointed with the results of their resettlement than other immigrants.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)309-317
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


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