‘9 in 10 firefighters suffer post-traumatic stress’

New Ben-Gurion University study examined the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among firefighters, how they cope.

Firefighter watches water-dropping plane 311 (R) (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
Firefighter watches water-dropping plane 311 (R)
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
New Ben-Gurion University research on post-traumatic stress disorder in firefighters found that nine out of 10 showed symptoms of full or partial PTSD.
The study was not connected with the deaths of 44 in December 2010’s Mount Carmel forest disaster.
Among the physical symptoms of traumatic stress are lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, headaches and pain, the individual’s lack of interest in what previously interested him and depression.
For the first time, BGU said on Wednesday, Dr. Marc Lougassi – a firefighter himself as well as a doctoral student in the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences – studied the prevalence of PTSD among the professionals and how they cope. Three hundred firefighters participated in the study.
“It is important to note that as far as Israeli firefighters are concerned there has been no documented evidence of PTSD prevalence, despite the fact that they are exposed to additional traumas such as war and terror strikes that add to the traumas they experience in the course of their daily shifts,” Lougassi said.
Twenty-four percent of the operational firefighters suffered from full PTSD, 67% showed partial PTSD and 9% showed no signs of any traumatic symptoms. But only 5% of the flight firefighters in the Ben-Gurion Airport Firefighting Services had PTSD, and 50% of them showed no full or partial PTSD symptoms.
The representative sample of firefighters excluded those who had undergone psychological or psychiatric treatment, suffered head injuries or had chronic diseases that required prescription drugs on a regular basis. Included were firefighters who had been exposed to traumatic events since 1997. An additional 42 Ben-Gurion Airport firefighters served as a control group.
“The results support the hypothesis that increased exposure to recurring traumatizing events is a significant factor contributing to PTSD development,” Lougassi said.