Israelis’ physical, emotional health has deteriorated significantly since Oct. 7 — survey

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Col. Asaf Hamami's wife Sapir and son Alon mourn during his funeral in Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2023, (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Col. Asaf Hamami's wife Sapir and son Alon mourn during his funeral in Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2023, (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A survey conducted by Maccabi Healthcare Services indicates that Israelis’ physical and emotional health have deteriorated significantly during the two months since the Israel-Hamas war began.

In the final days of November, Maccabi, Israel’s second-largest health maintenance organization (HMO), surveyed a representative group of 500 Israelis aged 20-75 from all over the country and belonging to all four of Israel’s HMOs. The results of the survey reflect the self-reported information provided by the respondents.

The survey found that one-third of Israelis feel that their health has declined since October 7. Among the quarter of Israelis with chronic diseases, 30 percent said they felt that their condition had worsened.

Over a third of respondents said they had postponed or canceled medical appointments, including important cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies.

Illustrative: Family and friends attend the funeral of Israeli soldier Noa Marciano, who was killed in Hamas captivity, at the military cemetery in Modi’in. November 17, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Reports from HMOs of hugely increased consumption of prescription and non-prescription sleep aids are reflected in the survey’s finding that 63% of Israelis are experiencing sleep disturbances.

Changes in eating and exercise habits were reported, with 36% of Israelis having gained weight and 13% having gone down in weight. Sixty-two percent of people who work out and partake in sports have either reduced their physical activity or stopped altogether.

Half of those surveyed said their emotional health declined as a result of the horrific events of October 7 and the ensuing war. This decline is reflected in an increase of at least 30% in diagnoses of anxiety and depression made by mental healthcare professionals in recent weeks.

Finally, the war has had an impact on addictive behaviors. Among smokers, 56% admitted to smoking more since the war began, and regular drinkers of alcohol said their consumption was up since October 7.

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