Fire-fighters struggle who cannot handle negative emotions likely to use alcohol


Life, Health

Studies reveal that distress tolerance plays role in alcohol use and abuse among fire-fighters.

The study has been published in the journal of Psychiatry Research. (Photo: ANI)

Washington: Researchers have come up with a new study, which states that fire-fighters who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) symptoms and who think they cannot handle negative emotions are more likely to use alcohol, and are more likely to use it to cope with negative emotions. The study has been published in the journal of Psychiatry Research.

Among the findings, PTSD symptom severity was also associated with alcohol use severity. Coping-oriented alcohol use among fire-fighters has been associated with more severe alcohol use and greater levels of work-related stress. The research carried out by the University of Houston psychology professor Anka Vujanovic indicated that among fire-fighters, distress tolerance amplifies associations between PTSD symptoms and alcohol use severity.

Fire-fighters face continual exposure to traumatic events and PTSD, both significant risk and maintenance factors for alcohol use disorder. Trauma exposure among fire-fighters has been estimated to be 91.5 per cent. Previous research has shown that higher rates of alcohol use and related disorders have been documented among fire-fighters compared to the general population.

The findings were confirmed after adjusting for romantic relationship status, the number of years in the fire service, occupational stress and trauma load. This is the first study to concurrently examine these variables among fire-fighters.

"Our study has great potential to inform intervention efforts for this vulnerable, understudied population," said Maya Zegel, psychology doctoral student and the paper's first author, adding that targeting distress tolerance in therapy can make a big difference.

In 2017 in the United States, 103 fire-fighters committed suicide, whereas 93 fire-fighters died in the line of duty, but that might only represent about 40 per cent of the suicide deaths according to a Ruderman Family Foundation study, which indicates fire-fighter suicides are underreported.