The mental health of emergency services personnel in the UK Biobank: a comparison with the general working population.

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Background: There is evidence that mental disorders are more frequently reported among emergency services personnel due to the stressful nature of the job in combination with a high exposure to traumatic events. However, most of this research is based on occupational surveys that may lead to a contextual bias in the prevalence estimates or lack an adequate comparison group.
Objectives: To investigate mental health outcomes and associations with individual, job and trauma related characteristics among emergency services personnel compared to other workers.
Method: Participants were identified from the UK Biobank, a large study that collected a variety of genetic, physical and health data on individuals from across the UK. UK Biobank participants were aged between 40-69 years at recruitment. Those employed in the emergency services were identified based on job titles. A comparison sample of other workers was selected and matched to the gender composition of emergency services personnel.
Results: 5052 participants were included, and 842 were currently working in the emergency services. The majority were male (77.4%) and the mean age at Biobank enrolment was 52.5 years. Alcohol misuse was reported in 32.8% of emergency services personnel compared to 29.2% in non-emergency services personnel, followed by PTSD (9.2% vs 6.0%), depression (6.8% vs 5.1%) and anxiety (3.9% vs 3.6%). An increased risk of PTSD was found among emergency services personnel compared to other workers (odds ratio 1.58, 95% confidence interval 1.21-2.06), but this association was no longer significant after adjustment for exposure to traumatic events and job characteristics.
Conclusions: The substantial levels of alcohol misuse and increased risk of PTSD, possibly as a result of traumatic exposures in the line of duty in combination with job stressors such as shift work, call for continued monitoring of the health and wellbeing of emergency services personnel.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean journal of psychotraumatology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


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