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

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

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Background: Rescue workers who are exposed to mass destruction and life-threatening 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 firefighters 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 firefighters 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 findings suggest the need for a more precise consideration of the psychological consequences and costs of rescue work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-98
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011



  • firefighter
  • earthquake
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • psychiatric morbidity

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