Mental health of protective services workers: Results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions

Christopher N. Kaufmann, Lainie Rutkow, Adam P. Spira, Ramin Mojtabai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives: To determine the prevalence of mental disorders in a nationally representative sample of protective services workers (PSWs), compare it to that of adults in other occupations, and determine if an association exists between trauma exposure and 3-year incident psychiatric disorders in PSWs. Methods: Data from the longitudinal US National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions waves 1 (fielded 2001-2002) and 2 (fielded 2004-2005) were used to compare the prevalence of mental disorders at baseline in a representative sample of PSWs to that of adults in other occupations. Among PSWs, we also explored the association between recent exposure to potentially traumatic events and the development of mood, anxiety, and alcohol-use disorders over a 3-year follow-up period. Results: At baseline, PSWs had a lifetime prevalence of mental and alcohol-use disorders similar to that of adults in other occupations. However, PSWs experienced a greater variety of potentially traumatic events between baseline and follow-up. Exposure to a greater number of different trauma types was associated with increased odds of incident mood (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.87, 95% CI = 1.09-3.22, P =.024), and alcohol-use disorders (AOR = 1.84, 95% CI = 1.16-2.91, P =.011). These associations were particularly strong among early career PSWs who joined the profession between waves 1 and 2 (AOR = 2.30, 95% CI = 1.26-4.19, P =.008, for mood disorders; AOR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.30-4.58, P =.007, for alcohol-use disorders). Conclusions: While PSWs do not appear to have a higher prevalence of mental health problems than workers in other occupations, they are more likely to experience multiple types of potentially traumatic events. PSWs who are exposed to multiple types of potentially traumatic events are at increased risk of developing new mental disorders, particularly in the early stages of their careers. Developing curricula in coping skills and providing timely interventions for early career PSWs may help reduce future psychiatric morbidity in these workers. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;7:36-45)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalDisaster medicine and public health preparedness
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013



  • Alcohol-use disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental disorders
  • Prevalence
  • Protective services workers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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