The number of cases of depression and anxiety noted among the residents of Sderot nearly doubled when Qassam rocket attacks on the town intensified starting in the early 2000s, according to a recent study. In tandem, there was a rise in consumption of anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants, as well as a rise in doctor's visits among Sderot residents.
In the years 2000-2002, when Qassam rockets began hitting the southern town, there were 3.8 prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills per 1,000 residents. At the end of the study, in the years 2006-2007, when hundreds of rockets were being rained on the city, there was a 44 percent rise in the number of prescriptions.
It was also found that at the start of the study there were 3.8 doctors visits per 100 residents per year for complaints related to depression and anxiety. In years when the shooting intensified, the number of visits shot up by 68% to 6.4 per 100.
The study examined the medical files of 11,630 patients in two clinics, one in Sderot and the other in Kiryat Gat. For the sake of comparison, in the same period Kiryat Gat witnessed the opposite trend: a 44 percent decline in the number of depression and anxiety-related medical visits.
"We also found fewer visits to the emergency room by Sderot residents during the period when there were a lot of Qassams and we believe the reason was a desire not to leave the town during periods of tension," said Dr. Lital Goldberg from the Family Medicine department of Ben-Gurion University Medical School. Goldberg carried out the study together with Professor Pesach Schwartzman and Dr. Jacob Dreiher.
"It is worth considering adding mental health professionals to the clinics," she said.
Aside from the data connected to anxiety, the researchers did not find an uptick in doctors' visits due to other conditions connected to security fears, like heart and artery diseases, asthma or diabetes. The study is set to be published in IMAJ, the journal of the Israel Medical Association.