Traumatic stress within disaster-exposed occupations: overview of the literature and suggestions for the management of traumatic stress in the workplace

Br Med Bull. 2019 Mar 1;129(1):25-34. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldy040.


Background: Many people who experience a disaster will do so as part of an occupational group, either by chance or due to the nature of their role.

Sources of data: This review is based on literature published in scientific journals.

Areas of agreement: There are many social and occupational factors, which affect post-disaster mental health. In particular, effective social support-both during and post-disaster-appears to enhance psychological resilience.

Areas of controversy: There is conflicting evidence regarding the best way to support trauma-exposed employees. Many organisations carry out post-incident debriefing despite evidence that this is unhelpful.

Growing points: Employees who are well supported tend to have better psychological outcomes and as a result may be more likely to perform well at work.

Areas timely for developing research: The development and evaluation of workplace interventions designed to help managers facilitate psychological resilience in their workforce is a priority. Successful interventions could substantially increase resilience and reduce the risk of long-term mental health problems in trauma-exposed employees.

Keywords: / mental health; / organisations; / trauma; disasters.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Disaster Victims / psychology
  • Disasters*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy*
  • Occupational Health Services / methods*
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology