The work of firefighters involves the risk of exposure to the harmful effects of toxic substances as well as the possibility of enormous emotional shock from disasters, which may result in psychiatric impairments and a lower quality of life. Therefore, we examined quality of life, prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression, and the related risk factors for firefighters in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
This is a two-stage survey study. During the first stage, we used the 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) and the Disaster-Related Psychological Screening Test (DRPST) to assess quality of life, probable PTSD, probable major depression, and the related risk factors for 410 firefighters. During the second stage, psychiatrists categorized these probable cases according to self-reported questionnaires against DSM-IV into PTSD or major depression group, subclinical group, and health group. All the data were analyzed with SPSS 10.0 Chinese version.
The estimated current prevalence rates for major depression and PTSD were 5.4% (22/410) and 10.5% (43/410), respectively. The firefighters with estimated PTSD or major depression scored significantly lower on quality of life measures than subclinical PTSD/major depression and mentally healthy groups, which was evident in eight concepts and two domains of the SF-36. The major predictors of poor quality of life and PTSD/major depression were mental status, psychosocial stressors, or perceived physical condition.
Firefighters have a higher estimated rate of PTSD, and the risk factors that affect quality of life and PTSD/major depression should encourage intervention from mental health professionals.