When disasters occur, humanitarian relief workers frequently deploy to assist in rescue/recovery efforts.
To conduct a systematic review of factors affecting the psychological wellbeing of disaster relief workers and identify recommendations for interventions.
We searched MEDLINE®, Embase, PsycINFO® and Web of Science for relevant studies, supplemented by hand searches. We performed thematic analysis on their results to identify factors predicting wellbeing.
Sixty-one publications were included. Key themes were: pre-deployment factors (preparedness/training); peri-deployment factors (deployment length/timing; traumatic exposure; emotional involvement; leadership; inter-agency cooperation; support; role; demands and workload; safety/equipment; self-doubt/guilt; coping strategies) and post-deployment factors (support; media; personal and professional growth).
As well as role-specific stressors, many occupational stressors not specific to humanitarian relief (e.g. poor leadership, poor support) present a significant health hazard to relief workers. Humanitarian organisations should prioritise strengthening relationships between team members and supervisors, and dealing effectively with non-role-specific stressors, to improve the psychological resilience of their workforce.