Police, firefighters and other protective services workers who are repeatedly exposed to traumatic events and are new to their profession are at greater risk of developing a psychiatric disorder, according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers also found that protective services workers do not appear to have a higher prevalence of mental health problems than workers in other occupations. The study results are featured in the February 2013 issue of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.
"Our findings suggest that exposure to diverse types of traumatic events among protective services workers is a risk factor for new onset of psychopathology and alcohol use disorders," said Christopher N. Kaufmann, MHS, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health. "When we examined the relationship of exposure to common traumas with the development of mood, anxiety and alcohol use disorders among protective services workers, we found that these workers were at greater risk for developing a mood or alcohol use disorder. Interestingly, this relationship was not seen in those who had been in these jobs for a longer period, but was strong and statistically significant in workers who recently joined the profession. Developing curricula in coping skills and providing timely interventions for early career protective services workers may help reduce future psychiatric morbidity in these workers."