Secondary traumatic stress and work ability in death care workers: The moderating role of vicarious posttraumatic growth

PLoS One. 2023 Jul 27;18(7):e0289180. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0289180. eCollection 2023.


Death care work consists of dealing with traumatic events frequently, if not daily. This type of exposure is considered characteristic of the profession and can lead to significant negative consequences such as secondary traumatic stress. However, sometimes positive changes can occur as a result of experiencing trauma, which is referred to as vicarious posttraumatic growth. The aim of the present study is to investigate the role of vicarious posttraumatic growth (VPTG) in the relationship between secondary traumatic stress (STS) and work ability (WA) in a sample of 231 death care workers in northern Italy. Regression analysis with interaction was performed using PROCESS. The results showed a negative association between STS and WA and a positive association between VPTG and WA. The interaction between STS and VPTG was also statistically significant. The moderating role of VPTG was partially confirmed by the analysis: at low and moderate VPTG levels, the conditional effect was negative and statistically significant, while at high VPTG, STS exposure had no significant and negative effect on WA, as if VPTG had some kind of protective role against STS. These results provide new insights into the role of VPTG in work environments with daily trauma exposure, such as death care.

MeSH terms

  • Compassion Fatigue*
  • Empathy
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Posttraumatic Growth, Psychological*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic*
  • Work Capacity Evaluation

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.