The impact of natural and human-caused disasters can be devastating. Not only is there a loss of life and financial resources, but there is a psychological toll as well. Survivors of disasters are not the only ones who experience psychological consequences from the disasters. Disaster relief workers are impacted psychologically as well. Secondary traumatic stress and posttraumatic growth describe the negative and positive impacts of vicarious exposure to traumatic events, respectively. This study examined risk and protective factors in disaster relief workers for secondary traumatic stress and posttraumatic growth. Participants (N = 92) were recruited from the American Red Cross and included those who have responded to a national disaster within the past five years. Participants completed an online survey that was comprised of several measures including a demographics questionnaire; Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS; Bride, Robinson, Yegidis, & Figley, 2004); Professional Quality of Life Scale Version 5 (ProQOL-5; Stamm, 2009); Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996); Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985); Flourishing Scale (FS; Diener et al., 2010); Self-Care Assessment, and one qualitative question. Multiple regression analyses were conducted with each of the standardized measures to determine predictors of secondary traumatic stress and posttraumatic growth. Comparisons between disaster responders and disaster mental health responders were examined using t-tests. The qualitative question was analyzed using a modified consensual qualitative research approach (CQR; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997) to create domains, categories, and sub-categories. Risk factors for secondary traumatic stress and burnout include those whose disaster response was 7-12 months ago, being a young adult, being single, and having a master's degree. Protective factors that decrease the risk of secondary traumatic stress in disaster relief workers include those who work with trauma survivors outside of their volunteer work, those who are unemployed, and those who always or sometimes engage in self-care. Factors that contribute to posttraumatic growth include working part time, being involved in a greater number of disaster responses in the past five years, and having greater than 13 months of time since the last disaster response. Factors that decrease the likelihood of developing posttraumatic growth include being a middle-aged adult, having a professional or doctoral degree, and having some college. When examining the differences between disaster responders and disaster mental health workers, the only significant difference in secondary traumatic stress symptoms was in intrusion symptoms, with disaster responders reporting more intrusion symptoms than disaster mental health responders. There were no significant differences between the two groups in posttraumatic growth. The results of the study indicated that the majority of participants do not experience significant symptoms of secondary traumatic stress; however, many experience at least some symptoms, and in some cases, almost 25% reported difficulties with secondary traumatic stress symptoms and/or burnout. This is a significant number of relief workers, and it is apparent that disaster relief organizations need to be prepared to assess for risks, as well as provide support to those who struggle.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2015. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: John Romano. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 245 pages.
Secondary Traumatic Stress and Posttraumatic Growth: Risk and Protective Factors among American Red Cross Disaster Responders and Disaster Mental Health Workers.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.