Firefighters, posttraumatic stress disorder, and barriers to treatment: Results from a nationwide total population survey

Jieun E. Kim, Stephen R. Dager, Hyeonseok S. Jeong, Jiyoung Ma, Shinwon Park, Jungyoon Kim, Yera Choi, Suji L. Lee, Ilhyang Kang, Eunji Ha, Han Byul Cho, Sunho Lee, Eui Jung Kim, Sujung Yoon, In Kyoon Lyoo

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52 Scopus citations


Repeated exposure to traumatic experiences may put professional firefighters at increased risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To date, however, the rate of PTSD symptoms, unmet need for mental health treatment, and barriers to treatment have only been investigated in subsamples rather than the total population of firefighters. We conducted a nationwide, total population-based survey of all currently employed South Korean firefighters (n = 39,562). The overall response rate was 93.8% (n = 37,093), with 68.0% (n = 26,887) complete responses for all variables. The rate of current probable PTSD was estimated as 5.4%. Among those with current probable PTSD (n = 1,995), only a small proportion (9.7%) had received mental health treatment during the past month. For those who had not received treatment, perceived barriers of accessibility to treatment (29.3%) and concerns about potential stigma (33.8%) were reasons for not receiving treatment. Although those with higher PTSD symptom severity and functional impairment were more likely to seek treatment, greater symptom severity and functional impairment were most strongly associated with increased concerns about potential stigma. This nationwide study points to the need for new approaches to promote access to mental health treatment in professional firefighters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0190630
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

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© 2018 Kim et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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