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Disease Markers
Volume 30, Issue 2-3, Pages 133-139
http://dx.doi.org/10.3233/DMA-2011-0748

Maternal Exposure to the Holocaust and Health Complaints in Offspring

Janine D. Flory,1,2 Linda M. Bierer,2 and Rachel Yehuda2,3

1Department of Psychology, Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, Flushing, NY, USA
2Department of Psychiatry, Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA
3Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

Received 14 April 2011; Accepted 14 April 2011

Copyright © 2011 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Although the link between chronic stress and the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases of adulthood has been known for some time, there is growing recognition that early environmental influences may result in developmental programming via epigenetic mechanisms, thereby affecting the developmental trajectory of disease progression. Previous studies support the idea that offspring of Holocaust survivors may have been subjected to early developmental programming. We evaluated the relationship between parental exposure to the Holocaust and self-reported health ratings and disorders made by their adult offspring (i.e., second generation Holocaust survivors). A total of 137 subjects were evaluated. Regression analyses demonstrated that maternal but not paternal exposure to the Holocaust was related to poorer subjective impressions of emotional and physical health. This relationship was diminished when the offspring’s own level of trait anxiety was considered. Offspring with maternal, but not paternal, Holocaust exposure also reported greater use of psychotropic and other medications, including medications for the treatment of hypertension and lipid disorders. The mechanism linking these health outcomes and maternal exposure deserves further investigation, including the possibility that fetal or early developmental programming is involved.