Post-traumatic stress among rescue workers after terror attacks in Norway

Skogstad, L., Heir, T., Hauff, E., & Ekeberg, Ø. (2016). Post-traumatic stress among rescue workers after terror attacks in Norway. Occupational Medicine, 66(7), 528-535. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqw063

Aims

To investigate the level of, and associations between, demographic variables, exposure and work-related variables and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS).

Methods

A cross-sectional study of general and psychosocial health care personnel, police officers, firefighters, affiliated and unaffiliated volunteers were conducted ~10 months after the terror attacks. The respondents answered a self-reported questionnaire. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Checklist – specific (PCL-S) assessed PTSS.

Results

There were 1790 participants; response rate was 61%. About 70% of the professional rescue workers had previous work experience with similar tasks or had participated in training or disaster drills. They assessed the rescue work as a success. Firefighters and unaffiliated volunteers reported more perceived threat compared with the other groups. Among the professional personnel, the prevalence of sub-threshold PTSD (PCL 35–49) was 2% and possible PTSD (PCL ? 50) 0.3%. The corresponding figures among the unaffiliated volunteers were 24% and 15%, respectively. In the multivariate analysis, female gender (? = 1.7), witnessing injured/dead (? = 2.0), perceived threat (? = 1.1), perceived obstruction in rescue work (? = 1.6), lower degree of previous training (? = ?0. 9) and being unaffiliated volunteers (? = 8.3) were significantly associated with PTSS.

Conclusions

In the aftermath of a terror attack, professional rescue workers appear to be largely protected from post-traumatic stress reactions, while unaffiliated volunteers seem to be at higher risk.

The Researchers