Posttraumatic Distress and Coping Strategies among Rescue Workers after an Earthquake

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Disaster workers are at high risk for developing psychiatric morbidity. This study examined the prevalence rates of psychiatric and posttraumatic distress and the relationship between psychiatric and posttraumatic morbidity and coping strategies among rescue workers following an earthquake in Taiwan on September 21, 1999. Eighty-four male firefighters who had been exposed to earthquake rescue work were assessed 5 months after the event. The Chinese Health Questionnaire (CHQ), the Impact of Event Scale (IES), and the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WCQ) were used to assess psychiatric morbidity, posttraumatic morbidity, and coping strategies. The observed prevalence rates were 16.7% and 21.4% for general psychiatric morbidity and posttraumatic morbidity, respectively. Results from multivariate logistic regression indicated that job experience and confrontive coping were significant predictors of psychiatric morbidity, while job experience, distancing, escape-avoidance, and positive reappraisal were significant predictors of posttraumatic morbidity. Rescue workers with longer job experience were at the highest risk for developing psychiatric and posttraumatic distress.

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