Past Issues

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Psychiatric Morbidity in Firefi ghters Eight Months after 1999 Chi-Chi Earthquake Rescue Work: A Preliminary Report

Mong-Liang Lu, Ya-Jun Guo, Charles Tzu-Chi Lee, Tsu-Nai Wang, Vincent Chin-Hung Chen

Background: Rescue workers who are exposed to mass destruction and lifethreatening
situations may become hidden victims of the disaster. This prospective
study aimed to explore the longitudinal course and risk factors of posttraumatic
stress disorder (PTSD) case and psychiatric morbidity among fi refi ghters responding
to the 1999 Chi-Chi Earthquake. Method: A total of 317 on-scene rescue workers
was sent a self-report questionnaire assessing posttraumatic stress syndromes,
psychiatric morbidity, and demographic information eight months following the
earthquake, and 161 returned the completed questionnaires with a response rate of
50.8%. Results: The estimated rates of PTSD cases and minor psychiatric morbidity
(MPM) were 19.3% and 21.7%, respectively. The risk factors for PTSD case
were injury to family members during the earthquake and the existence of MPM.
Conclusion: The results of our study revealed that about 1/5 and 1/5 of the fi refi ghters
suffered from PTSD cases and MPM, respectively, eight months following the
Chi-Chi Earthquake. Exposed disaster workers were at an increased risk of PTSD
and other psychiatric morbidities. Those fi ndings suggest the need for a more precise
consideration of the psychological consequences and costs of rescue work.
Key Word firefighter, earthquake, posttraumatic stress disorder, psychiatric morbidity
Editorial Committe, Taiwanese Journal of Psychiatry
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