Emergency medical service (EMS) workers are three times more at risk of mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to the general population, according to a new study.
The findings showed that each day EMS workers experience a diverse array of occupational stressors — routine work demands, critical incidents involving serious harm or death, and social conflicts.
“Each additional work demand or critical event that an EMS worker encountered on a given workday was associated with a 5 per cent increase in their PTSD symptom severity levels that day, while each social conflict was associated with a 12 per cent increase in their depression symptom severity levels,” said lead researcher Bryce Hruska, Assistant Professor of public health at the Syracuse University in New York, US.
“Together, these occupational stressors negatively impacted mental health each day that they occurred,” Hruska added.
Exercising, socialising with other people, and finding meaning in a given day’s challenges can help reduce mental health symptoms for EMS workers, revealed the study published by the Journal of Affective Disorders.
“These activities had a beneficial impact on mental health; each additional recovery activity in which a worker engaged was associated with a 5 per cent decrease in their depression symptom severity levels that day,” Hruska said.
The researchers surveyed EMS workers at American Medical Response in Syracuse, for eight consecutive days in 2019 to better understand their mental health symptoms related to daily occupational stressors.
EMS workers who looked for lessons to learn from the day’s challenges had a 3 per cent decrease in their daily depression symptoms, the results showed.
The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the significant mental health burden experienced by EMS workers.
Increasing interaction with family, friends and co-workers, recognising conflicts as an opportunity for learning, relaxing after a particularly demanding shift may help in alleviating the stress, the researchers said.