The Potential Cumulative Impact of Chronic Stress Among Firefighters
Greetings! I'm an Air Force fireman and Public Safety Management graduate from Indiana University. I completed the attached report this past semester. I'm very interested to hear thoughts on it.
Current findings suggest that past research, and even firefighters themselves, have underestimated the level and effects of both the physiological and psychological dimensions of stress in the profession of firefighting. The vast majority of existing data is based off immediate physical stress or the long-term stress of a single, predominantly traumatic event or circumstance. While these provide excellent insight into the strains firefighters face, they are incapable of accounting for the potential cumulative effects of encountering such stressors over a career of public service. Numerous studies show a strong correlation between chronic stress and the exacerbation and causation of disease. Accordingly, the trend of firefighters dying significantly younger than their general population counterparts has proven to be a complex issue that demands further research. It is essential for steps to be taken to reduce the modifiable stressors of the fire ground and educate firefighters on the inherent exposures of the job, the impacts of those exposures, and how to deal with them. The culture of the fire service must transform from an expectation of toughness to one of recognition, support, and mastery when managing stress. We can begin to do this by advocating a proactive approach to stress debriefing, fitness programs, hands-on training, and the maintenance of mental health. By doing so, we will be able to make further advances on preserving the longevity and quality of the firefighters serving our communities.