Faculty Profile: Golan Shahar
September 5, 2012
Prof. Golan Shahar of BGU’s Department of Psychology recently published a study “Does War Hurt? Effects of Media Exposure after Missile Attacks on Chronic Pain,” in the online version of the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings.
This study finds that exposure to attacks through the media resulted in an increase in pain intensity for people already suffering from chronic pain. Up until now there have been studies exploring the physical impact of terrorism on individuals who were not directly injured.
Here is an excerpt from a recent interview with Prof. Shahar about the study in Connecticut’s Jewish Ledger.
Q: How, when, and why was the study first conceived?
A: The study was conceived following the missile attacks on the southern region of Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces’ “Cast Lead” military operation.
We had a unique opportunity to be able to assess the effects of a stressful situation on individuals who were taking part in an unrelated study on psychological adjustment to chronic pain conducted as part of Dr. Sheera Lerman’s doctoral dissertation, which I was supervising. Thus, we were able to compare patients’ conditions before and after the three-week-long missile attack, making this a rare and unique prospective study on exposure to terrorism.
Q: How did you recruit subjects? Were they from one area of the country or spread out?
A: The study assessed 55 chronic pain patients at a specialty pain clinic in a large hospital in the south of Israel. Accordingly, most patients live in a radius of 80 kilometers or less from the hospital, which is the same approximate area that was affected during the missile attacks.
The patients completed self-report questionnaires regarding their pain, depression, and anxiety before and after the three-week missile attack.
Q: What were some of the more unexpected or surprising discoveries in the study?
A: This prospective and longitudinal study adds to the body of research on the effects of war and terrorism on suffering – specifically, the effect on individuals with chronic pain.
Our results show that indirect exposure to terrorism had an adverse effect on the physical pain of chronic pain patients but not on their emotional distress. This emphasizes the importance of interventions that target this population.
Stress and media exposure were also strongly related, suggesting that the amount of television viewing related to the terrorist attacks may have influenced how much stress the individual experienced.