Firefighters are known for their bravery. But it takes a toll on them – especially for women firefighters, according to the findings of a study of a large, big-city fire department by researchers from the University of Houston.
Twenty percent of female firefighters were found to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder more frequently than their male counterparts, as well as have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts than the men in the department.
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The data was based on 2,639 firefighters, with just 75 of them being women. Approximately 20% of the women firefighters showed signs of PTSD, and 30% of them reported suicidal thoughts. These problems tended to appear mid-career.
The study’s lead author, Consuelo Arbona, University of Houston professor of counseling psychology, says it was time that women firefighters were looked at more closely .
“Because women are such a small number of the population in each fire station, they have been somewhat overlooked when they are included in larger studies and their unique issues lost, Arbona said in a release. “This study begins to explore work and mental health characteristics of women firefighters who make up a population that needs better understanding.”
One component that may contribute to declining mental health in women firefighters is that they often take on second jobs to earn enough money.
“Women who had second jobs tended to show higher levels of stress, possibly due to having children at home,” said Arbona.
A shocking statistic: in 2007 in the United States, 100 firefighters committed suicide, while fewer – 93 – died in the line of duty.
The study was published in the journal Occupational Medicine.
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