This study investigated the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among professional and non-professional rescue workers involved in the 1999 Chi-Chi Earthquake in Taiwan. One month following the disaster, 252 rescue workers (167 professional rescue workers, 85 non-professional volunteers) were surveyed with the Chinese version of the Davidson Trauma Scale (DTS-C) and the Chinese version of the SPAN (SPAN-C). Non-professional rescuers had significantly higher scores than professional rescuers on both the DTS-C and the SPAN-C. The prevalences of PTSD, as defined by a DTS-C score ≥44, among professional and non-professional rescuers were 19.8% and 31.8%, respectively. Among the three subscales of the DTS-C, only scores on the numbness/avoidance subscale were significantly higher in the non-professional than in the professional rescue workers. The results of this study suggest that disaster rescue work is associated with a high level of stress even for highly trained professionals and may lead to mental health problems.
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