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The Influence of Exposure to Natural Disasters on Depression and PTSD Symptoms among Firefighters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 December 2017

Michelle L. Pennington
Affiliation:
Baylor Scott and White Health, Warriors Research Institute, Waco, Texas USA
Thomas P. Carpenter
Affiliation:
Seattle Pacific University, School of Psychology, Family, and Community, Seattle, Washington USA
Samantha J. Synett
Affiliation:
Baylor Scott and White Health, Warriors Research Institute, Waco, Texas USA
Victoria A. Torres
Affiliation:
Baylor Scott and White Health, Warriors Research Institute, Waco, Texas USA
Jennifer Teague
Affiliation:
Baylor University College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Biology, Waco, Texas USA
Sandra B. Morissette
Affiliation:
The University of Texas at San Antonio, Department of Psychology, San Antonio, Texas USA
Jeffrey Knight
Affiliation:
Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts USA Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, Massachusetts USA
Barbara W. Kamholz
Affiliation:
Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts USA Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, Massachusetts USA
Terence M. Keane
Affiliation:
Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts USA Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, Massachusetts USA
Rose T. Zimering
Affiliation:
Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts USA Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, Massachusetts USA
Suzy B. Gulliver
Affiliation:
Baylor Scott and White Health, Warriors Research Institute, Waco, Texas USA Texas A&M University Health Science Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Temple, Texas USA
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Introduction

Firefighters represent an important population for understanding the consequences of exposure to potentially traumatic stressors.

Hypothesis/Problem

The researchers were interested in the effects of pre-employment disaster exposure on firefighter recruits’ depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms during the first three years of fire service and hypothesized that: (1) disaster-exposed firefighters would have greater depression and PTSD symptoms than non-exposed overall; and (2) depression and PTSD symptoms would worsen over years in fire service in exposed firefighters, but not in their unexposed counterparts.

Methods

In a baseline interview, 35 male firefighter recruits from seven US cities reported lifetime exposure to natural disaster. These disaster-exposed male firefighter recruits were matched on age, city, and education with non-exposed recruits.

Results

A generalized linear mixed model revealed a significant exposure×time interaction (e coef =1.04; P<.001), such that depression symptoms increased with time for those with pre-employment disaster exposure only. This pattern persisted after controlling for social support from colleagues (e coefficient=1.05; P<.001), social support from families (e coefficient=1.04; P=.001), and on-the-job trauma exposure (coefficient=0.06; e coefficient=1.11; P<.001). Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms did not vary significantly between exposure groups at baseline (P=.61).

Conclusion

Depression symptoms increased with time for those with pre-employment disaster exposure only, even after controlling for social support. Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms did not vary between exposure groups.

Pennington ML , Carpenter TP , Synett SJ , Torres VA , Teague J , Morissette SB , Knight J , Kamholz BW , Keane TM , Zimering RT , Gulliver SB . The Influence of Exposure to Natural Disasters on Depression and PTSD Symptoms among Firefighters. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2018;33(1):102108.

Type
Brief Report
Copyright
© World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine 2017 

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Footnotes

Conflicts of interest/funding/disclaimer: This research was supported by a research grant from National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH; Bethesda, Maryland USA; R01-MH-73808) to Suzy B. Gulliver entitled “Pathways of Risk and Resilience in Firefighter Recruits.” The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of NIMH, Veterans Affairs, or the United States government. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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