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The influence of a disaster on the health of rescue workers: a longitudinal study.
CMAJ 2007; 176(9):1279-83CMAJ

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Rescue workers strive, after disasters, to help victims and restrict damage, often in dangerous circumstances. We examined the effect of a disaster on the physical and psychological health of rescue workers (firefighters, police officers and medical emergency services personnel) who provided assistance after the explosion of a fireworks depot in the Netherlands in May 2000.

METHODS

We carried out a 4-year longitudinal study of 1403 rescue workers employed in or near the affected neighbourhood (the study group) and a control group of 1650 uninvolved rescue workers (from another city of similar size and urbanization). Health outcomes were measured as prevalence, incidence (both measured as the percent of workers who took sick leave), frequency of the absences and number of sick days (both per 100 workers), and duration (mean length of sickness absences, in days).

RESULTS

Sick leave among the study workers increased substantially during the 18 months after the explosion. For example, the prevalence of absences attributed to psychological problems increased from 2.5% of workers during the 6 months before the disaster to 4.6% during the first 6-month period after the explosion and 5.1% during the second. That for respiratory problems rose from 5.4% predisaster to 14.9% 6-12 months afterward. In comparison with controls, immediate increases occurred in musculoskeletal, psychological, respiratory and nonspecific ill health (e.g., malaise, fatigue) during the first year postdisaster. Rates of sick leave for musculoskeletal and respiratory reasons remained elevated until 3 years postdisaster, whereas leave for psychological problems and other ill health had returned to predisaster levels by then. Neurological problems increased after a 1-year delay. No significant increase in gastrointestinal problems was observed among the study workers, in comparison with controls.

INTERPRETATION

Many health problems arise immediately after a disaster and may persist for years. Health care workers should realize, however, that some disaster-related effects may not emerge until a year or more after the event.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, Utrecht, the Netherlands. m.morren@nivel.nlNo affiliation info availableNo affiliation info availableNo affiliation info available

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

Language

eng

PubMed ID

17452661

Citation

Morren, Mattijn, et al. "The Influence of a Disaster On the Health of Rescue Workers: a Longitudinal Study." CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal De l'Association Medicale Canadienne, vol. 176, no. 9, 2007, pp. 1279-83.
Morren M, Dirkzwager AJ, Kessels FJ, et al. The influence of a disaster on the health of rescue workers: a longitudinal study. CMAJ. 2007;176(9):1279-83.
Morren, M., Dirkzwager, A. J., Kessels, F. J., & Yzermans, C. J. (2007). The influence of a disaster on the health of rescue workers: a longitudinal study. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal De l'Association Medicale Canadienne, 176(9), pp. 1279-83.
Morren M, et al. The Influence of a Disaster On the Health of Rescue Workers: a Longitudinal Study. CMAJ. 2007 Apr 24;176(9):1279-83. PubMed PMID: 17452661.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - The influence of a disaster on the health of rescue workers: a longitudinal study. AU - Morren,Mattijn, AU - Dirkzwager,Anja J E, AU - Kessels,Frans J M, AU - Yzermans,C Joris, PY - 2007/4/25/pubmed PY - 2007/5/11/medline PY - 2007/4/25/entrez SP - 1279 EP - 83 JF - CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne JO - CMAJ VL - 176 IS - 9 N2 - BACKGROUND: Rescue workers strive, after disasters, to help victims and restrict damage, often in dangerous circumstances. We examined the effect of a disaster on the physical and psychological health of rescue workers (firefighters, police officers and medical emergency services personnel) who provided assistance after the explosion of a fireworks depot in the Netherlands in May 2000. METHODS: We carried out a 4-year longitudinal study of 1403 rescue workers employed in or near the affected neighbourhood (the study group) and a control group of 1650 uninvolved rescue workers (from another city of similar size and urbanization). Health outcomes were measured as prevalence, incidence (both measured as the percent of workers who took sick leave), frequency of the absences and number of sick days (both per 100 workers), and duration (mean length of sickness absences, in days). RESULTS: Sick leave among the study workers increased substantially during the 18 months after the explosion. For example, the prevalence of absences attributed to psychological problems increased from 2.5% of workers during the 6 months before the disaster to 4.6% during the first 6-month period after the explosion and 5.1% during the second. That for respiratory problems rose from 5.4% predisaster to 14.9% 6-12 months afterward. In comparison with controls, immediate increases occurred in musculoskeletal, psychological, respiratory and nonspecific ill health (e.g., malaise, fatigue) during the first year postdisaster. Rates of sick leave for musculoskeletal and respiratory reasons remained elevated until 3 years postdisaster, whereas leave for psychological problems and other ill health had returned to predisaster levels by then. Neurological problems increased after a 1-year delay. No significant increase in gastrointestinal problems was observed among the study workers, in comparison with controls. INTERPRETATION: Many health problems arise immediately after a disaster and may persist for years. Health care workers should realize, however, that some disaster-related effects may not emerge until a year or more after the event. SN - 1488-2329 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/17452661/The_influence_of_a_disaster_on_the_health_of_rescue_workers:_a_longitudinal_study_ L2 - http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=17452661 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -