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Volunteers and professional rescue workers: Traumatization and adaptation after an avalanche disaster

Helga Arnfridur Haraldsdóttir, Cand Psych, Drifa Gudmundsdóttir, PhD, Eugenia Romano, MSc, Edda Björk Þórðardóttir, BA, Berglind Guðmundsdóttir, MSc, Ask Elklit, MSc


Objective: To compare the degree of traumatization and adaptation in professional and volunteer rescue workers after two snow avalanches.

Method: Questionnaires including demographic questions, the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, the Rescue Workers Questionnaire, the General Health Questionnaire, the Impact of Event Scale, and the Coping Styles Questionnaire were answered by rescue workers (n = 168).

Results: In several areas, professional rescuers had stronger fears than volunteers, all the same, volunteers were significantly more anxious and met criteria for PTSD caseness more often than professionals.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that voluntary rescue workers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms more often than professionals following demanding rescue missions.


volunteers, professional rescue workers, disaster, post-traumatic stress disorder, adaptation

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