The link between PTSD and physical symptoms in emergency workers

It is known that many mental disorders are associated with increased rates of physical health problems.  These relationships are not trivial, with some studies suggesting the increased risk of mortality associated with depression to be comparable with smoking. A number of recent studies have suggested that PTSD may also be associated with increased levels of physical symptoms.  The precise mechanisms of the link between PTSD and physical health problems have not yet been identified, however they are believed to be the result of both biological (e.g. HPA axis dysregulation) and psychological (e.g. hyperarousal) changes following exposure to a traumatic event.  This relationship may be particularly important in emergency workers given the physically intense nature of their work.

We are utilising data collected on 816 fire fighters in NSW to compare the rates of somatic symptoms in emergency workers with and without PTSD and to examine if these relationship change as emergency workers get older.