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Mental distress symptoms among Muscat firefighters: the impact of sociodemographic factors, sleep disturbance and smoking

Javad Hashempour (Department of Fire Safety Engineering, International College of Engineering and Management, Muscat, Oman)
Zubaida Shebani (Department of Psychology, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman)
Jeffrey Kimble (Department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 22 August 2023

Issue publication date: 23 November 2023

44

Abstract

Purpose

Firefighting can pose a number of psychological health risks due to the nature of the job. Previous studies have examined the relationship between distress symptoms in firefighters and factors such as age, experience in the service, workload, sleep and alcohol use. However, the relationship between risk factors and mental health problems in firefighters remains unclear. In the present study, the authors aim to assess mental distress among Muscat firefighters using the Brief Symptom Inventory-18. The authors expected that this research will allow researchers to determine the prevalence of mental distress among Muscat firefighters and assess the role of the above risk factors on the ratio.

Design/methodology/approach

The assessment includes the prevalence of anxiety, somatization and depression symptoms among firefighters. The impact of sociodemographic factors, sleep problems and smoking on symptomatic cases was also evaluated. Data was collected from 110 firefighters then processed as per instructions in the BSI-18 manual to identify clinical cases in each of the three scales of the assessment.

Findings

Results show that all factors influence the number of cases to different extents. Young, single firefighters with high school level education were found to have the highest number of extreme cases followed by those who are non-smokers and satisfied with their job. This study did not find a relationship between sleep disorder and job dissatisfaction with regard to the number of critical cases. The prevalence of anxiety, somatic and depression cases among firefighters was found to be 11.8%, 10.9% and 10%, respectively. These findings have implications for fire service work-organization policies and for the development and monitoring of treatment programs for firefighters.

Originality/value

This work presents a comprehensive assessment on common factors that may impact prevalence of mental distress among an underrepresented firefighter community. These findings have implications for fire service work-organization policies and for updating current monitoring programs or updating new programs for firefighters.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Sabra Al Riyami, an undergraduate student, for help with data collection.

Citation

Hashempour, J., Shebani, Z. and Kimble, J. (2023), "Mental distress symptoms among Muscat firefighters: the impact of sociodemographic factors, sleep disturbance and smoking", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 295-305. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-12-2022-0075

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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