The incidence of psychological distress and alcohol usage among fire fighters was investigated. A total of 145 fire fighters participated in a study conducted at Cincinnati, Ohio. A list of 72 potential workplace stressors was developed and administered to the subjects. Results showed that hearing that children were in a burning building was the highest ranked of the stressors, receiving an average score of 2.86 out of a possible 4. The three measures of psychological distress used were the General Health Questionnaire (GSQ), the Symptom Check List (SCL-90-R), and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). The Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST) was used to assess the incidence of alcohol use. On the GSQ, 39% scored 2 or higher, suggesting a high level of emotional distress. On the SCL-90-R, 41% had an average Global Severity Index (GSI) above the normal range. The CES-D revealed a mean score of 12.6, and 33% scored 16 or higher suggesting mild emotional distress. A reduced risk of depression was found for individuals having more years of employment. For the GSI score, individuals whose spouse did not work outside the home had a reduced risk of psychological distress compared with those who were not married, or whose spouse did work outside the home. The MAST revealed that 29% of the fire fighters had possible or probable current problems with alcohol use. The authors conclude that there is an increased risk of psychological distress and alcoholism among fire fighters, but caution that the model used may lack critical occupational stress variables, or factors other than work stress that may be more predictive of psychological distress.
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