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Stress and Coping Strategies Among Firefighters and Recruits


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This study compared psychological distress and coping strategies for three different permanent firefighter groups in South-East Queensland, Australia: recruits (n = 42), on-shift firefighters (n = 51), and firefighters who had recently attended one of 13 fatal incidents (n = 52). Older firefighters reported more general distress but no increase in posttraumatic stress symptoms. Coping strategies tended to be associated with higher distress and posttraumatic stress, but once this general tendency was taken into account, seeking instrumental support was associated with lower posttraumatic stress symptoms. Results support previous findings that cumulative exposure and events outside work contribute to distress in firefighters.
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**POSTPRINT: Article published in Journal of Loss and Trauma, 15(6), 548-560.**
Stress and coping strategies among firefighters and recruits
Michael J. A. Chamberlin 1 2 & Heather J. Green 1
1 School of Psychology & Griffith Institute for Health & Medical Research, Griffith
University, Gold Coast Qld Australia
2 Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, Gold Coast Qld Australia
Address for Correspondence: Dr Heather Green, School of Psychology, Gold Coast campus,
Griffith University Qld 4222 Australia. Phone: +61 (0)7 5552 9086. Fax: +61 (0) 7 5552
8291. Email:
This study compared psychological distress and coping strategies for three different
permanent firefighter groups in South-East Queensland, Australia: recruits (n=42), on-shift
firefighters (n=51), and firefighters who had recently attended one of 13 fatal incidents
(n=52). Older firefighters reported more general distress but no increase in post-traumatic
stress symptoms. Coping strategies tended to be associated with higher distress and post-
traumatic stress, but once this general tendency was taken into account, seeking instrumental
support was associated with lower post-traumatic stress symptoms. Results support previous
findings that cumulative exposure and events outside work contribute to distress in
Stress and coping strategies among firefighters and recruits
Emergency service workers such as firefighters may experience elevated risk of
developing post-traumatic stress symptoms due to incidents at work (Corneil, Beaton,
Murphy, Johnson, & Pike, 1999; McFarlane & Bryant, 2007). It is intuitively appealing to
think that increased experience in emergency work would help protect against post-traumatic
stress. For example, a protective role of experience was supported by findings from over
28,000 workers and volunteers who had completed at least one rescue and recovery shift at
the World Trade Centre site between September 11, 2001 and June 2002 (Perrin et al., 2007).
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prevalence was highest among volunteers who were
not affiliated with specific organisations, and therefore on average may be presumed to have
the least amount of relevant training and experience. In addition, there was differential risk of
PTSD from specific exposures depending on occupation, with increased PTSD risk associated
with out-of-role tasks such as firefighting for police or construction for firefighters (Perrin et
al., 2007). These findings suggested that emergency workers showed increased resilience to
PTSD if engaged in tasks in which they were previously experienced.
Conversely, a number of studies have now identified increased age or experience as
risk factors for higher post-traumatic stress among firefighters (Chang et al., 2003; Corneil et
al., 1999; Dean, Gow, & Shakespeare-Finch, 2003; Moran & Britton, 1994; Regehr, Hill,
Knott, & Sault, 2003; Wagner, Heinrichs, & Ehlert, 1998). This relationship has been found
in connection to specific events such as firefighters performing rescue work after an
earthquake (Chang et al., 2003) as well as symptom prevalence associated with accumulated
years of service for both career firefighters (Corneil et al., 1999; Dean et al., 2003; Regehr et
al., 2003; Wagner et al., 1998) and volunteers (Dean et al., 2003; Moran & Britton, 1994).
Other patterns have included a lack of relationship between years of service and post-
traumatic stress in 220 urban firefighters with a mean of 12 years of service (Beaton, Murphy,
Johnson, Pike, & Corneil, 1999) and a quadratic relationship with highest stress in the middle
group (Moran, 1998). In the latter study, professional firefighters with 12.5-25 years of
experience had higher work and personal stress than firefighters with either less or more
experience than this (Moran, 1998). A quadratic relationship might help explain why
increased experience sometimes appears to predict increased post-traumatic stress and
sometimes decreased risk.
Prospective studies in recruit firefighters have identified that significant post-traumatic
stress can develop with early work experiences. In a study that tested recruits at baseline and
within their first 12 months as a firefighter, the new firefighters tested 2-28 days after a
traumatic event (n=35) showed elevated Impact of Events Scale (IES) scores compared with
their colleagues who had not yet experienced one of the defined events (Guthrie & Bryant,
2005). Although there were no cases of Acute Stress Disorder or PTSD identified at initial
retest, after 4 years of service 12% met PTSD criteria (Bryant & Guthrie, 2007). Another
study in 47 probationary male firefighters found 16.3% met PTSD criteria after 2 years as a
firefighter, compared with 0% PTSD prevalence after completing initial training (Heinrichs et
al., 2005). These prospective studies allowed identification of pre-exposure risk factors for
post-traumatic stress, such as increased arousal (Guthrie & Bryant, 2005), negative self-
appraisals (Bryant & Guthrie, 2007), high hostility (Heinrichs et al., 2005) and low self-
efficacy (Heinrichs et al., 2005).
A further question of interest for understanding risk and protective factors is
firefighters’ use of coping strategies. The use of avoidance and numbing strategies has been
associated with higher distress or post-traumatic stress symptoms in firefighters both cross-
sectionally (Brown, Mulhern, & Joseph, 2002; Chang et al., 2003) and longitudinally (Beaton
et al., 1999). In contrast, lower distress has been associated with increased use of strategies
such as task-focused coping (Brown et al., 2002), emotion-focused coping (Brown et al.,
2002), and positive reappraisal (Chang et al., 2003). In a study of over 700 professional
firefighters, both older and younger firefighters reported more positive than negative
responses after stressful tasks, but positive reactions were reduced in firefighters who used
suppression coping (Moran & Colless, 1995).
A coping strategy that appears to be favoured by firefighters is seeking support from
others. Some authors have noted that social support may be sought for either instrumental
reasons (such as advice and practical assistance) or for emotional reasons (such as moral
support and understanding), and that both purposes frequently occur together (Carver,
Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989). A study in the United Kingdom found that firefighters favoured
partner and work support and purposively chose between potential sources of support
(Haslam & Mallon, 2003). Canadian firefighters who perceived lower social support had
higher depression and trauma scores and it was noted that experienced firefighters reported
lower social support than recruit firefighters (Regehr et al., 2003).
To further understand the roles of experience and coping strategies in firefighter
stress, a study was conducted that compared stress and coping in recruits, on-shift and after
trauma firefighters. To our knowledge this research appears to be the first to include these
three groups in the same cross sectional design. For this study, the after trauma group
comprised firefighters who provided data approximately seven days after a standardized type
of event. The trigger event was any work involving a fatality. Under current policy of the fire
and rescue service involved in the study, on the day of a fatality or as soon as possible
afterwards, all personnel involved are contacted by a trained peer support officer. Therefore,
the type of event and timeframe were more standardized than in previous studies in which
participants chose their own event that was subjectively traumatic (Brown et al., 2002; Moran
& Britton, 1994; Moran & Colless, 1995; Regehr, Hill, & Glancy, 2000; Wagner et al., 1998)
or had occurred over a longer and/or variable time lag before data collection (Chang et al.,
2003; Smith et al., 2005).
There has been research which has been conducted longitudinally with recruits
(Bryant & Guthrie, 2005; Guthrie & Bryant, 2005; Heinrichs et al., 2005). However, this does
not capture the on-shift perspective which can include up to 30 years or more of firefighting
experience. Therefore the current research was designed to explore group differences in post
traumatic stress levels and coping strategies, including the possibility of explaining further
how post traumatic stress and coping strategies develop over a firefighter’s career. It was
hypothesized that groups would differ on coping strategies, psychological distress, and post
traumatic stress levels, with the after trauma group expected to report the highest level of
psychological distress and post traumatic stress symptoms. Potential risk and protective
effects of age, length of service, rank, prior emergency experience, education, and coping
strategies were also examined.
Participants were 145 male firefighters in South-East Queensland, Australia, aged 22-
61 years. They were either undergoing initial training (recruits; n = 42), working a standard
shift (on-shift; n = 51; 1-38 years of service), or had attended a recent fatal incident (after
trauma; n = 52; 1-35 years of service). Fatal incidents involved 11 motor vehicle crashes, one
truck rollover, and one train/pedestrian collision. The shifts were selected at random from
among the 15 fire stations within the region. All personnel from the same shift were invited to
participate, as any firefighting work (including exposure to traumatic events) involves the
whole shift of personnel from that station. Data were collected between October 2006 and
March 2007. As only 2% of firefighters in the region are female and sex differences have
been found in both coping and post-traumatic stress (Gavranidou & Rosner, 2003), only male
firefighters were included in the present study. Further demographic information is shown in
Table 1.
Insert Table 1 about here
Participants completed self-report demographic items as well as several standardized
questionnaires. Psychological distress was measured with the General Health Questionnaire
12 item scale (GHQ-12; Goldberg & Williams, 1988), which has been recommended for
screening and interviewing trauma victims (Raphael, Lundin, & McFarlane, 1989).
Cronbach’s α for the current research was 0.86, consistent with a mean from previous
research of 0.85 (Goldberg & Williams, 1988). Because data on thresholds for the GHQ have
most often used GHQ scoring of 0-0-1-1, GHQ scoring with a 1/2 threshold was used for
binary classification, consistent with data from a large representative Australian adult sample
(Korten & Henderson, 2000) and a separate study with Australian male military personnel
(McKenzie et al., 2004). Because Likert scoring provides a better spread of scores when the
GHQ-12 is analysed as a continuous variable (Goldberg et al., 1997), Likert scoring of 0-1-2-
3 was used for all other GHQ-12 analyses.
Coping strategies were measured using the Brief COPE (Carver, 1997). Of the 14
subscales, comprising 2 items for each subscale, 11 had Cronbach’s alpha ranging between
.73-.96. Behavioural disengagement did not form a reliable subscale (Cronbach’s alpha = .36)
and was not analysed further. Self-blame (.62) and self distraction (.63) had the lowest
Cronbach’s alpha scores of subscales retained for analysis but, given that there were only 2
items per scale, this was considered to indicate adequate reliability for further analysis.
The Impact of Events Scale Revised (IES-R) was used to measure participant post
traumatic stress symptoms (hyperarousal, intrusion and avoidance; Weiss, 2004). The total
score was used for analysis, and had Cronbach’s alpha of 0.94. The after trauma group
instructions were to rate the degree of distress or bother from each symptom over the past
seven days with respect to the fatal incident. Instructions for recruit and on-shift participants
requested that they respond regarding symptoms over the past seven days with respect to “any
stress in your life”. Scores of 33 or above were considered to indicate above-threshold levels
of post-traumatic stress symptoms (Creamer, Bell, & Failla, 2003).
Before data collection, approval was obtained from the fire and rescue service,
firefighter’s union, and university human research ethics committee. Recruits participated
during their initial training, the on-shift group participated during work hours, and the after
trauma group was contacted on the day of the fatal incident and invited to participate in
approximately one week. Contact on the day of the incident was conducted in conjunction
with the first author’s role as a fire and rescue service peer support coordinator. Collection of
data one week after the incident was consistent with the 7-day timeframe for IES-R.
Preliminary Analyses
Initial comparisons (see Table 1) showed that recruits, as expected, were significantly
younger than on-shift and after trauma groups, F (2, 142) = 46.94, p < .001. Unexpectedly, on
average the after trauma group was older and more experienced than the on-shift group; this
difference of approximately 4 years was significant for both age and length of service (p <
.05). Recruits were more likely than the two experienced groups to have a higher level of
education, χ2 (4) = 14.55, p < .01, and to have previous paid or voluntary experience in an
emergency occupation before joining the fire service, χ2 (2) = 26.88, p < .001. On-shift and
after trauma groups did not differ significantly from each other in education, previous
emergency experience, or rank.
Distress, post-traumatic stress symptoms, and all of the coping scales except
acceptance were positively skewed. There were also several univariate outliers, and one of
these cases was also a multivariate outlier. Transformations were therefore used so that the
data met the assumptions for parametric analyses (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1989). Square root
transformations were used for active coping, emotional support, positive reframing, and
planning. Logarithmic transformations were used for distress, post-traumatic stress symptoms,
instrumental support, venting, and humour. The inverse was used for self distraction and self
blame, which reversed the direction of correlations involving these variables. Substance use,
religious coping, and denial remained strongly skewed even after transformations and were
not analysed further. There were no outliers among transformed data. Descriptive statistics are
presented for the original scales for ease of interpretation, but values for ANOVAs,
correlations, and regressions come from transformed data. The pattern of results was similar
for both transformed and untransformed data, except that several correlations were significant
with transformed but not untransformed data.
Group Comparisons for Coping Strategies, Psychological Distress and Post Traumatic Stress
Table 2 shows the proportion of participants in each group who were categorised as
demonstrating elevated distress on the GHQ-12 using the GHQ standard scoring method of 0-
0-1-1 and a cutoff of 1/2 (Korten & Henderson, 2000; McKenzie et al., 2004) and the
proportions who reported above-threshold post-traumatic stress symptoms using a cutoff of
33 on the IES-R (Creamer et al., 2003). Groups did not differ significantly in the proportion
of participants who reported above-threshold symptoms on the GHQ-12, χ2 (2) = 0.52, ns, or
the IES-R, χ2 (2) = 0.51, ns. Most firefighters who were above-threshold on the IES-R also
reported elevated distress on the GHQ-12: this was true for 7/7 after trauma participants with
elevated IES-R scores, 5/5 on-shift participants, and 4/6 recruits. The remaining 2 recruits
who had elevated IES-R scores were below threshold on the GHQ-12.
Insert Table 2 about here
The groups were compared using one way ANOVAs for distress, post-traumatic
stress, and coping strategies (see Table 2). Groups did not differ significantly on either
distress or post-traumatic stress. Coping strategies are presented in descending order of the
overall mean. There was no difference among groups in frequency of use of the most
frequently reported coping strategy, acceptance, nor for humour or venting. There were group
differences for other coping strategies; for each of these recruits reported significantly higher
use of the coping strategy than the after trauma group and means for the on-shift group were
intermediate between the other two groups.
Predictors of Psychological Distress and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms
In order to examine potential predictors of distress and post-traumatic stress, bivariate
correlations (as shown in Table 3) were first examined with 3 sets of predictors: demographic
variables, grouping variables, and coping strategies. A separate hierarchical multiple
regression was then conducted for each of the two criterion variables (distress and post-
traumatic stress), using only predictors that correlated significantly with the specific criterion
variable. Demographic variables that correlated with higher distress were higher age, years of
service, and rank. Demographic variables did not correlate significantly with post-traumatic
stress. A grouping variable of recruits versus others showed that being past the recruit stage
correlated with higher GHQ distress. Grouping variables did not correlate significantly with
post-traumatic stress and were therefore not used in regression with this dependent variable.
Higher use of all coping strategies correlated with higher distress and post-traumatic stress.
Insert Table 3 about here
At Step 1 of the hierarchical multiple regression with distress (GHQ) as the criterion
variable, the three demographic variables accounted for 7% of the variance, R2adj = .07, F (3,
139) = 4.66, p < .01. There was a significant independent contribution to distress by age =
.32, p < .05; 4% of variance), but not by years of service (β = -.11, ns) or rank (β = .10, ns). At
Step 2, there was no additional predictive value from including the grouping variable for
recruits versus others, R2change = .00, Fchange (1, 138) = 0.26, ns. At Step 3, the 10 coping
strategies added significantly to the prediction of distress, R2change = .35, Fchange (10, 128) =
8.07, p < .001. With all predictors in the equation, 38% of the variance in distress was
accounted for. In the full regression equation, there were significant independent
contributions from age (β = .25, p < .05; 2% of variance), and the inverse of self-blame
(β = -.28, p < .05; 4%). Older age and more use of self blame were associated with higher
distress on the GHQ.
Standard multiple regression showed that coping strategies accounted for 47% of the
variance in post-traumatic stress symptoms, R2adj = .47, F (10, 134) = 13.95, p < .001.
Significant independent contributions came from instrumental support (β = -.42, p < .001; 6%
of variance), emotional support (β = .30, p < .01; 4%), the inverse of self-distraction (β= -.27,
p < .01; 5%), acceptance (β = .27, p < .01; 4%), and venting (β = .26, p < .01; 4%). Lower
instrumental support, higher use of emotional support, higher self-distraction, higher
acceptance and higher venting were associated with higher post-traumatic stress symptoms.
The direction of the relationship for instrumental support was reversed from bivariate
correlations; emotional support was partially acting as a suppressor variable but even with
emotional support omitted from the regression the beta weight for instrumental support was
still negative, showing that the combination of the other coping strategies also contributed to
the reversed relationship.
The current research investigated potential predictors of psychological distress and
post traumatic stress within a career firefighter population. The key finding supported
previous results which found that older firefighters reported more psychological distress
(Chang et al., 2003). Contrary to expectations, there was no overall difference among the
groups in mean distress or post-traumatic stress symptoms. However, older age was a
significant correlate with higher distress and remained a significant predictor when coping
strategies were also taken into account.
Groups differed in multiple ways. Similar to a 2003 study with Canadian firefighters
(Regehr et al., 2003), recruits in this sample had a higher level of education than experienced
firefighters and were more likely to have paid or voluntary emergency experience before
joining the fire service. In the present study, increased age, rank, and years of service all
correlated with increased distress, but in multiple regression age had the only significant
independent contribution among these predictors. It is difficult to tease out the relative
contribution of these three predictor variables given their natural interrelationship; in the
present study age correlated .79 with years of service as a career firefighter and .69 with rank.
Other studies have varied in which of these factors is most important in predicting distress;
for example Corneil et al. (1999) found that PTSD risk increased with years of service in
Canadian firefighters but with rank in United States firefighters. Years of service as a
firefighter have frequently been found to predict higher distress (Moran & Britton, 1994;
Regehr et al., 2003; Wagner et al., 1998) including previous research in Queensland career
firefighters (Dean et al., 2003).
In terms of coping strategies, all of the coping strategies analyzed were found to be
significant in predicting higher levels of distress on the GHQ-12. For post-traumatic stress on
the IES-R, higher use on all of the different coping strategies was associated with
significantly more distress. This may be seen as reflecting increased coping efforts for
individuals who experience more stress, and does not necessarily indicate that the strategies
themselves are maladaptive. Interestingly, the strategy of seeking instrumental or practical
support from others was found to predict lower post-traumatic stress once the general
tendency of individuals with higher stress to report higher use of all coping strategies was
taken into account. This finding supports previous researchers who found similar results in
UK (Haslam & Mallon, 2003), Canadian (Regehr et al., 2003) and Australian firefighters
(Dean et al., 2003).
Overall though, the groups differed significantly on seven of the ten coping strategies
analyzed, with the recruit group scoring the highest means. A limitation of using a
standardized coping measure, the Brief COPE, was loss of information about participants’
specific strategies; for example, many participants commented on using exercise as a coping
strategy and this was not taken into account well on the Brief COPE measure. The highest
coping means were for strategies such as acceptance, active coping, and planning, indicating
that firefighters were not shying away from their reactions and they were actually processing
and adaptively coping (Carver, 1997) with employment stressors.
A further limitation of this study was that social desirability was not measured. A
previous study with 402 professional male firefighters excluded results of 22.9% of the
sample from the main PTSD analyses as these participants’ responses suggested a pattern of
socially desirable responding (Wagner et al., 1998). It would be helpful to know whether
social desirability effects vary with age in this population, as it is possible that older
firefighters may be more willing to disclose some information than younger firefighters.
However, the usual pattern of findings from the literature has been higher social desirability
with increased age (Welte & Russell, 1993), which would be expected to produce lower
distress scores for older participants rather than higher distress as in this and other studies in
Given that distress and post-traumatic stress can come from experience prior to joining
the fire service, stress from training, work experiences both early and later in the firefighter’s
career, and personal experiences outside work (Dean et al., 2003), stress, resilience and
coping strategy training appears warranted both during initial training and for experienced
firefighters. Related occupational groups that may also benefit from such training are fire
service communication officers, rural (volunteer), and auxiliary (part-time) firefighters.
Resilience and positive experiences derived from emergency work are also notable and
warrant further research (Moran & Colless, 1995).
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Table 1.
Means (with Standard Deviations) and Frequencies (with Percentages) for Demographic
Characteristics of the Groups
Age (years)
31.5 (6.2)
41.0 (7.6)
Years of Service
12.7 (8.3)
Prior Emergency Experience
28 (67%)
14 (33%)
14 (27%)
37 (73%)
9 (17%)
43 (83%)
Year 10 or less
Year 11, 12 or
University Degree
4 ( 9%)
28 (67%)
10 (24%)
20 (40%)
23 (46%)
7 (14%)
20 (38%)
28 (54%)
4 ( 8%)
4th/3rd/2nd/1st class
Senior firefighter
Leading firefighter
or above
42 (100%)
11 (22%)
25 (49%)
15 (29%)
11 (22%)
23 (46%)
16 (32%)
a Missing for 1 participant in on-shift group
b Missing for 2 participants in after trauma group
Table 2.
Group Means (with Standard Deviations) and Frequencies (with Percentages) for Distress,
Post-Traumatic Stress and Coping
After Trauma
F (2, 142)
Distress (GHQ Likert; M [SD])
Below cutoff (0-1, GHQ scoring)
Above cutoff (2+, GHQ scoring)
9.2 ( 4.0)
30 (71%)
12 (29%)
10.5 ( 4.7)
33 (65%)
18 (35%)
11.2 ( 5.3)
36 (69%)
16 (31%)
Post-Trauma Stress (IES-R; M[SD])
Below cutoff (0-32)
Above cutoff (33+)
12.1 (14.0)
36 (86%)
6 (14%)
13.6 (18.8)
46 (90%)
5 (10%)
13.3 (18.5)
45 (87%)
7 (13%)
Coping Strategies (M [SD])
2.6 ( 0.9)
2.3 ( 1.0)
2.4 ( 1.1)
Active Coping
2.2 ( 0.9)a
1.8 ( 0.7)
1.5 ( 0.7)b
2.0 ( 0.8)a
2.0 ( 1.0)a
1.3 ( 0.6)b
Positive reframing
2.2 ( 0.8)a
1.7 ( 0.8)b
1.3 ( 0.6)c
1.9 ( 0.9)
1.6 ( 0.7)
1.6 ( 0.9)
Emotional support
1.8 ( 0.6)a
1.6 ( 0.7)
1.4 ( 0.6)b
Instrumental support
1.8 ( 0.7)a
1.7 ( 0.8)a
1.3 ( 0.6)b
1.6 ( 0.5)
1.6 ( 0.6)
1.5 ( 0.7)
Self distraction
1.6 ( 0.6)a
1.4 ( 0.7)
1.3 ( 0.6)b
Self blame
1.5 ( 0.7)a
1.5 ( 0.6)a
1.2 ( 0.5)b
Note: Across a row, different letters indicate means that differ significantly from each other.
ANOVA and post-hoc comparisons were based on transformations (see text), but descriptive
statistics are shown for untransformed scores. * p < .05 ** p < .01 *** p < .001
Table 3.
Correlations Across All Groups
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Dependent Variables
1. Distress -
2. Post-Traumatic Stress
Demographic Variables
3. Age
4. Education
5. Prior experience
6. Years of service
7. Rank
Grouping Variables
8. Recruit/Others
9. No trauma/Trauma
Coping Strategies
10. Acceptance
11. Active coping
12. Planning .26** .29***
-.27** .21* .16 -.27** -.23** -.24** -.41***
13. Positive reframing
14. Humour
15. Emotional support
16. Instrumental support
17. Venting
18. Self distraction
19. Self blame
Note See text for list of transformations. Inverse transformations for self distraction and self blame reversed the direction of scoring so that, after
transformations, lower scores represented higher use of the strategy. * p < .05 ** p < .01 *** p < .001
... To date, the literature is mixed with respect to the importance of various risk and protective factors in understanding PTSD prevalence in firefighters. Although a number of studies report no relationship between frequency or severity of CI exposure and PTSD prevalence in firefighters (Chamberlin & Green, 2010;Meyer et al., 2012;Pinto et al., 2015), others report that factors related to CI exposure, such as the type or frequency of exposure, are predictive of meeting screening cutoffs for PTSD (Corneil et al., 1999;Harvey et al., 2016). Nontraumatic organizational stress has also been associated with PTSD outcomes in firefighters (Meyer et al., 2012). ...
... Thirteen studies within the present review examined incident-specific factors in relation to PTSD in firefighters, all of which were of medium or high quality. Chamberlin and Green (2010) examined PTSD symptoms in 145 Australian male firefighters to conduct a between-groups comparison of 42 new recruits, 51 regular shift workers, and 51 shift workers recently exposed to fatal incidents. Using the IES-R, the prevalence of probable PTSD in each group, respectively, was 14%, 10%, and 13%, and neither prevalence nor mean IES-R scores differed between groups, suggesting that recent exposure to fatality was not associated with higher rates of PTSD symptoms in firefighters. ...
... Demographics. Twelve studies specifically examined demographic variables in relation to PTSD outcomes in firefighters (Chamberlin & Green, 2010;Chen et al., 2007;Corneil et al., 1999;Del Ben et al., 2006;Kehl et al., 2014;Meyer et al., 2012;Mitani et al., 2006;Oginska-Bulik, 2016;Pinto et al., 2015;Saijo et al., 2012;Skeffington et al., 2017), although it should be noted that a number of studies controlled these variables as covariates in multiple regression models, but did not report the statistical outcomes of covariates. All 12 studies were of medium or high quality and conducted internationally across Australia, Canada, multiple European countries, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. ...
... Firefighters aim to protect citizens' lives in emergency situations. They experience threatening work conditions that influence their well-being due to cumulative exposure in their daily work life [1,2]. Fire personnel intervene in incidents that involve severe injuries, life-threatening circumstances, and death, which are potentially traumatic events [3][4][5]. ...
... Fire personnel intervene in incidents that involve severe injuries, life-threatening circumstances, and death, which are potentially traumatic events [3][4][5]. Hence, firefighters are exposed to very intense stressors for short periods of time, and psychological stress is part of their daily lives and affects their well-being [1]. ...
... Thus, while organizational demands constitute a top-down process, organizational resources may turn into either a top-down process or a bottom-up process [75]. Hence, following a multilevel approach would help to refine the results obtained so far by the extensive body of literature that has emerged in the last decade that has the JD-R as the underlying theoretical model [1,8]. ...
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In this study, we analyzed how organization-level demands and organizational-level social support relate to the core dimensions of burnout and work engagement, controlling for individual resources (i.e., proactive coping) and demands (i.e., acute demands) using the Job Demands-Resources Theory. In a sample of 1487 Portuguese firefighters nested within 70 fire brigades, hierarchical linear modeling indicated that: (1) proactive coping was related to lower burnout and higher work engagement, whereas acute demands were related to higher burnout and lower work engagement (for vigor only); (2) proactive coping moderated the relationship between acute demands and vigor; and (3) unexpectedly, social support from colleagues was not related to firefighters’ well-being, whereas organization-level demands were related to higher burnout and lower work engagement. These results suggest the need to implement practices and policies to guarantee the relevant conditions for improving the well-being of firefighters, to develop coping strategies in a proactive way, and finally, to enhance support from colleagues.
... Symptom reports vary across PSP professions such that paramedics, correctional workers, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) appear at significantly higher risk (Carleton et al., 2018). Women municipal/provincial police (MPP) and firefighters also appear at significantly higher risk than men for mental disorders (Carleton et al., 2018), possibly due to gendered differences in occupational experiences, stressors, coping strategies, and burnout among (Angehrn et al., 2021;Chamberlin & Green, 2010); however, personality traits are also related to vocational behaviours (Larson et al., 2002), gender (Costa et al., 2001), and mental health (Campbell-Sills et al., 2006) and may further contextualize recent results while informing attempts to improve PSP mental health. ...
Introduction Public safety personnel (PSP; e.g., correctional employees, firefighters, paramedics, police, public safety communicators [PSC]) are regularly exposed to diverse risks; as such, PSP professions may attract and retain people with personalities that differ relative to each other and the general public. The current study provides the first detailed analyses of personality traits and gender differences among Canadian PSP. Methods Canadian PSP (n = 4303) completed a web-based questionnaire including demographic items and the six-factor Brief HEXACO Inventory (BHI). A two-way MANOVA was conducted with individuals grouped by occupation and gender, and HEXACO personality scores entered as dependent variables. Results There were significant (p < .01) effects of occupation (ηp² = 0.008) and gender (ηp² = 0.009) for the six personality factors, with a significant interaction effect (p < .01; ηp² = 0.002). Occupational differences were most notable in terms of Emotionality, Extraversion, while few differences were found related to Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness. Women PSP were higher than men PSP on Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, Extraversion, and Agreeableness. PSP scored higher on Honesty-Humility and Extraversion than community and college samples. Conclusion Small, but statistically significant, differences in personality traits were identified among PSP occupational groups and gender. The results indicate individuals who choose PSP occupations may share some personality traits.
... Various systematic reviews have reported that intervention on psychological and cognitive behavioral skills of healthcare professionals is useful in the reduction and prevention of WS, especially if group treatments are used, being more convenient and bene cial than individual counseling. [50][51][52][53][54] Krasner and colleagues assessed the e ects of an intensive educational program that included self-awareness exercises, clinical experience narratives, teaching materials, and group discussions. Participants demonstrated improvements in awareness, general mood, empathy (emotional exhaustion), personal achievement, and personality during the training with sustained e ects of up to 15 months. ...
Background: Work stress (WS) is a set of harmful physical and emotional reactions that occur when the demands coming from work are not adequate to the skills, resources, or needs of the worker. This causes physical, mental, psychological, or social suffering and dysfunction, which can lead to burnout syndrome. Objective: The aim of this study is to evaluate WS in the healthcare professions, evaluating the effectiveness of a professional stress prevention program to promote a reduction in WS. Methods: Thirty-three healthcare professionals of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) rehab ward of the IRCCS Neurolesi (Messina, Italy) were enrolled in this study. The professional stress prevention program was based on group support activities, as well as individual support. Results: At baseline, we found a high burnout risk in physiotherapists, physicians, and other healthcare professionals. At the end of the meetings, we found a normalization in WS, with a higher sense of personal realization in all of the health-professions, and a greater use of functional coping strategies. Conclusion: The occupational stress-reducing intervention in healthcare teams can promote a reduction of stress and anxiety, encouraging more functional coping strategies to face work difficulties.
... Though these limitations exist, the study has some contributions and meanings. First, we explored the relationship between PTSS and burnout that results from work-related PTSD symptoms among firefighters, and investigated whether PTSS affected burnout in the context of a job characterized by violence and trauma, which was different from prior studies that focused only on job-related traumatic stress (Chamberlin and Green 2010;Haslam and Mallon 2003;Saijo et al. 2012). Second, it is meaningful to study Chinese firefighters' burnout from the traumatic perspective. ...
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Purpose: The study aims to explore the relationship of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSS) and job burnout among firefighters, as well as the mediating effect of coping in the relationship of PTSS and job burnout. Methods: A total of 431 firefighters participated in the study by completing a questionnaire package including Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS), PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5), and Coping Strategy Indicator (CSI). Results: (1) The level of firefighters' emotional exhaustion of job burnout varied significantly by age groups [F (2, 428) = 4.33, p < 0.05], and working years [F (2, 428) = 3.22, p < 0.05]; the level of cynicism of job burnout varied significantly by working years [F (2, 428) = 3.63, p < 0.05]. (2) PTSS was significantly and positively associated with job burnout (β = 0.899, p < 0.001). (3) Both avoidant coping and problem-solving mediated the relationship between PTSS and job burnout (β = 0.212, p < 0.001; β = 0.145, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Firefighters with higher level of PTSS are more likely to have job burnout. Avoidant coping and problem-solving play the mediating role in the relationship between PTSS and job burnout. The clinical implications for firefighters' interventions are discussed.
Conference Paper
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Vatrogasci gotovo svakodnevno sudjeluju u teškim intervencijama, od kojih neke uključuju i sudjelovanje u velikim nesrećama i katastrofama te spašavanje ljudskih života i imovine. Istraživanja pokazuju da je kod profesionalaca koji sudjeluju u ovakvim intervencijama nešto veća pojavnost određenih problema mentalnog zdravlja. Cilj ovog istraživanja je ispitati postoji li povezanost između učestalosti prisustvovanja vatrogasnim intervencijama u kojima je ugrožen ili izgubljen ljudski život te simptoma depresije, anksioznosti i stresa kod vatrogasaca. U istraživanju je sudjelovalo 90 vatrogasaca, od toga 76 % profesionalnih. Sudionici su bili prosječne dobi M=35.7 godina, gotovo svi (99 %) su bili muškarci, a većina ih dolazi iz Grada Zagreba i Istarske županije (74 %). Istraživanje se provodilo online, a upitnik se sastojao od pitanja o sociodemografskim karakteristikama sudionika, o sudjelovanju u intervencijama u kojima je ugrožen ili izgubljen ljudski život te je korištena Ljestvica depresivnosti, anksioznosti i stresa (DASS – 21). Rezultati pokazuju da ne postoji statistički značajna povezanost između vatrogasnih intervencija koje imaju karakteristike traumatskog događaja i simptoma depresije, anksioznosti i stresa
This study aims to examine the effect of occupational stress on suicidal thoughts among firefighters and verify the impact of alcohol use and cognitive-emotional regulation on the relationship between occupational job stress and suicidal thoughts. To achieve this, the authors surveyed and measured occupational job stress, alcohol use, and the Korean culture in relation to suicidal thoughts and cognitive-emotional control. The result showed that the hierarchical regression analysis that examined the effect of alcohol use and cognitive-emotional regulation on the relationship between occupational job stress and suicidal thoughts indicated that alcohol use had a moderating effect on occupational job stress leading to an increase in the frequency of suicidal thoughts. Based on these results, the necessity of follow-up studies along with the academic and clinical implications are discussed.
Introdução/ enquadramento/ objetivos: A atividade de bombeiro é considerada de risco elevado. Apesar dos perigos estarem razoavelmente bem identificados, são poucos os estudos que exploram a consciencialização destes indivíduos face aos desafios que o exercício profissional acarreta para a sua saúde e segurança. Pretende-se com este estudo conhecer qual a perceção dos bombeiros relativa aos diversos fatores de risco/ riscos inerentes à atividade operacional, qual a sua anuência face às medidas de proteção coletiva e individual, bem como identificar os principais acidentes laborais, queixas de saúde e crenças face à presença potencial de patologias de índole profissional, além de documentar a forma como percecionam o acompanhamento que recebem das equipas de saúde ocupacional. Metodologia: Optou-se por um estudo observacional, descritivo, transversal, realizado através de um questionário anónimo online. A amostra foi obtida por conveniência após contato com diversas instituições ligadas a este setor profissional. Cada profissional contatado tinha a possibilidade de responder apenas uma vez utilizando o link disponibilizado. Resultados: Responderam ao inquérito 58 bombeiros. A nível pessoal destaca-se a elevada prevalência de excesso de peso ou obesidade, embora haja consciência da sua interferência negativa na saúde e atividade profissional. A maioria dos indivíduos enumerou como principais fatores de risco o stress, desconforto térmico, transporte manual de cargas, queimadura, turnos noturnos e/ ou prolongados e os agentes biológicos. Entre os equipamentos de proteção individual realça-se a falta de acesso a protetores auriculares, calçado de segurança e equipamento de proteção respiratória. São razoavelmente frequentes os comportamentos de não adesão direcionados ao uso de viseira, óculos e proteção respiratória. Os acidentes são frequentes, culminando maioritariamente em entorses, queimaduras, cortes e entrada de corpos estranhos nos olhos e pele. As principais queixas centram-se no stress e nas lesões músculo-esqueléticas decorrentes da atividade, fatores também fundamentais para a enumeração de potenciais doenças profissionais. Relativamente ao acompanhamento por parte da equipa de saúde ocupacional este é geralmente inferior ao mínimo que está configurado na legislação. Discussão/Conclusões: O estudo espelha as perceções de uma pequena amostra de bombeiros, mais escolarizada e jovem, do que a população de bombeiros em geral, aspetos esses que permitem um eventual maior nível de literacia, constituindo-se como o principal viés a ter em conta. Da investigação sobressai a necessidade premente de intervir sobre os estilos de vida, de forma a reduzir o excesso de peso, para maior robustez e segurança na execução das diversas tarefas. Simultaneamente, parece ser fundamental reforçar o apoio relativo à gestão da saúde mental e do esforço físico, de forma a prevenir alterações emocionais e lesões músculo-esqueléticas. A nível institucional, parece ser necessário, em alguns contextos, desenvolver esforços no sentido de proporcionar e valorizar a existência de serviços de saúde e segurança ocupacionais efetivos, capazes de vigiar e promover a saúde dos bombeiros, prevenir acidentes e evitar o desenvolvimento de doença associada ao trabalho.
This study aimed to contribute to the preparation of an action plan for the improvement of the quality of life of firefighters at the individual level by examining how the working environment as perceived by firefighters affects their quality of life. To this end, this study conducted a survey that used purposive sampling targeting 201 fire-fighting officers in Incheon. The survey results showed that of the sub-variables of the working environment of firefighters, monetary rewards, challenges, and promotion had a significant influence on the quality of life. Based on the results, this study suggested various action plans that can support the working environment and improve the quality of life of firefighters.
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Introduction : 500 sapeurs-pompiers du SDIS 85 ont été mobilisés lors de la tempête Xynthia de 2010 et exposés à un évènement potentiellement traumatique. Sept ans après ce désastre, nous avons mené chez ces sapeurs-pompiers une enquête observationnelle afin de mesurer la prévalence des états de stress post-traumatique. Méthode : Les participants ont rempli trois échelles d’auto-évaluation : l’Impact of Event Scale Revised, le Questionnaire de Stress Post- Traumatique et le General Health Questionnaire-28 items. Résultats : Sur 141 questionnaires valides, le taux d’ESPT en lien avec la tempête Xynthia est de 3.55%. Les sapeurs-pompiers psychotraumatisés présentent une souffrance psychique dominée par l’anxiété, l’insomnie et la somatisation au GHQ-28. Il existe un lien statistiquement significatif (p<0.01) entre ce taux d’ESPT et les antécédents d’ESPT autres que la tempête Xynthia au QSPT (4.26%). Conclusion : Dans cette population spécifique, les séquelles psychiques de ce type d’intervention peuvent persister après plusieurs années.
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Emergency service personnel are at high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, there is little in-depth information on the psychological responses of firefighters to the daily incidents that they attend. This preliminary study aimed to investigate the PTSD symptoms of firefighters in relation to traumatic events experienced by them, and the availability of social support. Thirty-one UK fire service workers completed an adapted version of the Post-traumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS; Foa, 1995) to investigate the existence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They were also individually interviewed to explore the symptoms they had experienced, what events these were related to, types of social support and coping strategies. Two participants reached the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD. Rumination and sleep disturbance were the most commonly reported PTSD symptoms. Participants reported high levels of social support from within the service and outside. The results suggest that fire service personnel are at risk of developing some symptoms of PTSD; however most had not experienced severe enough symptoms for PTSD to be diagnosed. The study suggests that high levels of social support may play a role in buffering firefighters from the development of PTSD.
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Firefighters completed a questionnaire which examined both positive and negative reactions following major call-outs. Positive reactions were more frequently checked than negative ones. Factor analysis of positive reactions resulted in four factors, suggesting that positive reactions after a call-out represented more than an increased sense of general wellbeing. The type of reactions reported were related to the type of incident attended. Differences in reaction patterns were related to self-reported coping style and age of the firefighters.
The direct and protracted nature of the rescue and recovery workers and volunteers’ exposure to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks differentiates these persons from the general population.⁷ These responders are unlike previous populations of rescue workers⁸ because of the heterogeneity of their occupations (e.g., construction trades, utilities and sanitation workers, and first responders) and the documented health effects of their WTC work. The proportion of those meeting PCL threshold scores² for posttraumatic stress in the predominantly male sample is approximately four times the 5% reported lifetime prevalence of PTSD in the general male population.⁶ The point prevalences of approximately 6%, respectively, for panic and generalized anxiety symptoms represent a two- to fourfold increase, compared with the 12-month prevalences of 2% and 3%, respectively, reported in the general population.⁹ However, depression was detected at a prevalence of 6%, nearly half the 12-month prevalence of 10% reported in the general population.⁹ The point prevalence of alcohol abuse and dependence of nearly 10% documented by CAGE suggests rates at least as high as the 12-month prevalence of 9.7% reported in the general population.⁹
Emergency workers vary in their levels of experience, both in terms of years of service and involvement with traumatic incidents, and both types can influence vulnerability to stress. Opposing arguments can be made that experience has a sensitising or desensitising effect. Experienced emergency workers are shown to be more at risk in some studies and less so in others. It is proposed that the relationship between experience and stress is not necessarily linear, as is frequently assumed in such studies. This paper presents a test of linear and quadratic trends on stress and related variables across three groups of experienced firefighters. The results support the proposition that the relationship between stress and experience is quadratic, with stress highest in the middle experience group, and lowest in the low and high experience groups. This result is not explained by differences in actual traumatic exposures or coping practices. Other possible reasons are discussed.
We discuss the gender-specific differences for traumatic events and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as found in the epidemiological literature. Recent research literature consistently reports three interesting findings: 1) men experience traumatic events more often, 2) women and men differ in the type of traumatic experiences they experience, and 3) women more often develop PTSD after the experience of a traumatic event. In the second part of the present article we provide some explanations for these differences. The reported higher vulnerability of women for PTSD could be due to the methodology used, the higher prevalence of childhood sexual abuse and rape in women, the different coping styles of women and men, or the more limited socio-economic resources of women. Depression and Anxiety 17:130–139, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
This study compared new fire recruits in the first week of employment and following a 10-week training period with a group of experienced firefighters. Results suggest that new firefighter recruits enter the fire service with considerable experience of exposure to critical events. Nevertheless, a significant linear relationship was found between years of experience and levels of traumatic stress and depression. Further, this study revealed that experienced firefighters had lower levels of social support and lower self-efficacy than the new recruits. As these variables were associated with traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, it is concerning that these protective factors appear to diminish with time. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.