Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Psychological distress among recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union to Israel, I. Correlates of level of distress

N. Zilbera1 c1 and Y. Lernera1

a1 JDC Israel–Falk Institute for Mental Health and Behavioral Studies, CNRS, Centre de Recherche Français de Jérusalem, Jerusalem, Israel


In most migrations some selection takes place either by the absorbing country and/or the individuals who emigrate. Israel has an open-door policy for immigrants and the recent large wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union was made up of entire families rather than individuals. This provided an opportunity to examine the issue of migration and psychological distress more directly. A nationwide sample of 600 immigrants who arrived during the preceding year were interviewed in December 1990. Their psychological distress was measured by the PERI Demoralization questionnaire. For both genders, the mean demoralization score of the immigrant sample was found to be significantly higher than that reported for the Israeli-born population (after controlling for education). The factors that were found to be correlated with the level of distress were mostly individual characteristics of the immigrants (e.g. profession, religiousness, former residence in the Chernobyl region, previous contact with the health profession because of psychological problems). Increased distress was also significantly related to perceived lack of social support in Israel, which may in fact be partly determined by personality traits.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr N. Zilber, JDC Israel–Falk Institute, JDC Hill, POB 3489, Jerusalem 91034, Israel.