Selected, Scarred, and Strengthened: The Postwar Survival of World War I Prisoners of War

Evan Roberts , University of Minnesota
Amy Verrando, University of Minnesota

We add new evidence on the long-term effects of surviving extreme stress and violence, by examining the survival experience of all New Zealand prisoners of war from World War I. Using a complete collection of military personnel records, we are able to trace 98.5% of men to death records. Men who survived imprisonment lived to an average of 69 years, only slightly below life expectancy in the cohorts that were most likely to serve in the war. Mens survival was selective: the small group of men imprisoned in Turkey for more than 3 years lived to an average of 71 years. Post-war life was also scarred. We estimate that each additional day of imprisonment reduced life expectancy by 1.5 days. Contrary to our expectations, we found significantly lower suicide rates in the POW survival population (11/100,000) compared to the general population of WWI veterans (39/100,000).

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 Presented in Session 5. Health & Mortality 1