As many as 9 in 10 firefighters experience at least some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
That’s the startling conclusion of a new study by Israeli researchers that suggests work-related stresses may take a significant toll on people whose jobs are defined by emergency response.
According to the study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 24 percent of active firefighters in Israel suffer from full PTSD, 67 percent experience symptoms of partial PTSD and only 9 percent have no symptoms.
The findings were based on the experiences of nearly 400 active firefighters recruited for the study. They included workers of all ages, educational backgrounds, seniority levels and command roles. Firefighters with psychiatric issues, head injuries or chronic diseases were not included.
“Professional firefighters are frequently exposed to extreme stress during their work in emergency situations,” noted lead researcher Dr. Marc Lougassi. “In addition to the physical challenges of firefighting, they must evacuate burned and injured victims or bodies.”
Lougassi’s work suggests firefighters’ involvement in traumatic events exposes them not only to the pressures stemming from the traumatic event itself, but also to “post-traumatic emotional expressions that result in secondary traumatization.”