Southern residents are likely to recover more quickly from the current conflict than their northern counterparts did after the Second Lebanon War, a new study has found.
The study, conducted by Dr. Shaul Kimche and Prof. Yohanan Eshel, members of the Psychology Department at the Tel Hai Academic College, found that a combination of individual and communal strengths have long-term effects on civilians who experience war.
The subject of individual strength in times of crisis has been examined extensively. However, the effects of public and communal strength have attracted less attention.
The study evaluated the degree to which the link between personal and societal strength can foretell positive or negative impacts of a war. A positive impact would be citizens quickly returning to their routine, and a negative impact would be manifested in post-traumatic stress and anxiety.
The study involved 870 subjects - of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds - who experienced the Second Lebanon War.
"We found that the strongest indicator of depression is personal strength, while the strongest indicator of recovery, surprisingly, is public strength," Kimche said. "Public strength is a subjective feeling of the citizens, and it has a decisive impact. Experts throughout the world have concluded that military and economic strength are not enough - there is a great deal of importance to societal strength that comprises many elements: confidence in the leadership, identification with the state and its values, trust in the various organs of state, local and national, patriotism, etc."
Kimche explained, "The practical implication of societal strength is that the more the public believes in the abilities of the community, the local leadership, the national leadership, when it feels that there is someone to offer assistance when necessary, and the more support there is for the war, the ability of the citizens to recover after the war is better and faster."
Kimche also explained that while individual strength is a matter of personality and is very difficult to alter, public strength can be improved as part of a movement preparing citizens to deal with crises.
Regarding the current war, Kimche says that the public appears to be significantly stronger than it was in the Second Lebanon War.
He attributes this to the preparation that went into Operation Cast Lead, and the impression among civilians that the lessons of the Second Lebanon War were adopted. He also said that the public feels the operation will improve their situation, and that the action is being taken with premeditated precision and care.
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