Health problems and help-seeking in a nationwide sample of operational Norwegian ambulance personnel

Sterud, Tom; Hem, Erlend; Ekeberg, Øivind; Lau, Bjørn
January 2008
BMC Public Health;2008, Vol. 8 Issue 1, p3
Academic Journal
Background: To estimate the prevalence of anxiety and depression symptoms, and their association with professional help-seeking, among operational ambulance personnel and a general working population, and to study the symptoms of musculoskeletal pain and disturbed sleep among ambulance personnel. Methods: The results of a comprehensive nationwide questionnaire survey of operational ambulance personnel (n = 1180) were compared with the findings of a population-based Norwegian health study of working people (n = 31,987). The questionnaire included measures of help-seeking, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Subjective Health Complaints Questionnaire, the Karolinska Sleep Questionnaire and the Need for Recovery after Work Scale. Results: Compared with those in the reference population, the mean of level anxiety symptoms in the ambulance sample was lower for men (3.5 vs. 3.9, P <0.001) and women (4.0 vs. 4.4, P <0.05), and the mean level of depression symptoms in ambulance workers was lower for men (2.3 vs. 2.8, P <0.05) but not for women (2.9 vs. 3.1, P = 0.22). A model adjusted for anxiety and depression symptoms indicated that ambulance personnel had lower levels of help-seeking except for seeing a chiropractor (12% vs. 5%, P <0.01). In the ambulance sample, symptoms of musculoskeletal pain were most consistently associated with help-seeking. In the adjusted model, only symptoms of disturbed sleep were associated with help-seeking from a psychologist/psychiatrist (total sample = 2.3%). Help-seeking was more often reported by women but was largely unaffected by age. Conclusion: The assumption that ambulance personnel have more anxiety and depression symptoms than the general working population was not supported. The level of musculoskeletal pain and, accordingly, the level of help-seeking from a chiropractor were higher for ambulance workers. More research should address the physical strains among ambulance personnel.


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