Long-Term PTSD Risks in Emergency Medical Technicians Who Responded to the 2016 Taiwan Earthquake: A Six-Month Observational Follow-Up Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 7;16(24):4983. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16244983.


Although several factors associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in disaster rescue workers were identified in previous studies, the results were inconsistent. This study aimed to explore the prognostic factors of PTSD among disaster rescuers using different screening tools. A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan on February 6, 2016. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who responded to the earthquake were recruited. The initial survey was conducted one month after the earthquake using a standardized, self-reported, paper-based questionnaire. After six months, we re-evaluated the EMTs using the same questionnaire that was used in the baseline survey. A total of 38 EMT-paramedics were enrolled in the final analysis. Significant differences in PTSD scores at baseline existed between EMTs with and without certain risk factors. The interaction between survey time and risk factors was not significant, but several risk factors correlated with a nonsignificant improvement in the PTSD score after the 6-month follow-up. Perfectionism personality characteristics and several specific field experiences (managing injured patients, managing dead victims, managing dead victims who were pregnant, managing emotionally distraught families, or guilty feelings during the missions) might affect different subdomains of PTSD symptom improvement. Disaster rescuers should be followed up after their missions, regardless of their age, gender, or previous experience with disaster response. EMTs with certain personality characteristics or who are involved in specific field operations should be carefully monitored during and after disaster rescue missions.

Keywords: Taiwan; disaster; earthquake; emergency medical technician; posttraumatic stress disorder; prognostic factor; rescuer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Disasters*
  • Earthquakes*
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / psychology
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality
  • Rescue Work / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Time Factors