Prevalence and correlates of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder among Chinese healthcare workers exposed to physical violence: a cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2017 Aug 1;7(7):e016810. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016810.


Objectives: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common psychological maladjustment to undergoing a traumatic event. Our aim was to measure the prevalence of PTSD among Chinese healthcare workers exposed to physical violence' and explore the associations of their demographic characteristics, social support, personality traits' and coping styles with their PTSD symptoms.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted using the Workplace Violence Scale, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian Version (PCL-C), Social Support Rating Scale (SSRS), Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised Short Scale and Trait Coping Style Questionnaire. We used convenience sampling method to collect data from March 2015 to September 2016. Healthcare workers (n=2706) from 39 public hospitals located in Heilongjiang, Hebei and Beijing provinces of China completed the questionnaires (effective response rate=84.25%).

Results: Overall, the prevalence of physical violence in the previous 12 months was 13.60% (n=2706). The prevalence of PTSD among the healthcare workers who experienced physical violence was 28.0% (n=368). Most of the victims of physical violence (50.80%) did not exhibit PTSD symptoms based on their PCL-C scores, and 47.0% did not manifest the diagnostic criteria for PTSD after experiencing physical violence. The level of PTSD symptoms was negatively correlated with their scores on the SSRS (r=-0.188, p<0.001). The hierarchical regression analysis (block 3) revealed that, in women, positive coping was significantly associated with PTSD symptoms (β=-0.376, p=0.001). However, the effect of positive coping was not significant in men.

Conclusions: The results suggest that the aftermath of physical violence contributes to the current prevalence of PTSD. The positive effects of social support on PTSD symptoms suggest that it has practical implications for interventions to promote psychological health. The healthcare workers' coping styles influenced the development of PTSD symptoms. Therefore, adopting effective coping styles and receiving social support have potential roles in the recovery from trauma after experiencing physical violence.

Keywords: coping styles; mental health; personality; physical violence; post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSD); social support.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • China
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Hospitals, Public
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Abuse / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workplace Violence / psychology*