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Medical responders are at-risk of experiencing a wide range of negative psychological health conditions following a disaster.
Published literature was reviewed on the adverse psychological health outcomes in medical responders to various disasters and mass casualties in order to: (1) assess the psychological impact of disasters on medical responders; and (2) identify the possible risk factors associated with psychological impacts on medical responders.
A literature search of PubMed, Discovery Service, Science Direct, Google Scholar, and Cochrane databases for studies on the prevalence/risk factors of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders in medical responders of disasters and mass casualties was carried out using pre-determined keywords. Two reviewers screened the 3,545 abstracts and 28 full-length articles which were included for final review.
Depression and PTSD were the most studied outcomes in medical responders. Nurses reported higher levels of adverse outcomes than physicians. Lack of social support and communication, maladaptive coping, and lack of training were important risk factors for developing negative psychological outcomes across all types of disasters.
Disasters have significant adverse effects on the mental well-being of medical responders. The prevalence rates and presumptive risk factors varied among three different types of disasters. There are certain high-risk, vulnerable groups among medical responders, as well as certain risk factors for adverse psychological outcomes. Adapting preventive measures and mitigation strategies aimed at high-risk groups would be beneficial in decreasing negative outcomes.
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