Correlates of mental health in occupations at risk for traumatization: a cross-sectional study

Sarah K. Schäfer, M. Roxanne Sopp, Marlene Staginnus, Johanna Lass-Hennemann, Tanja Michael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (SciVal)


BACKGROUND: Hospitals, police stations, and fire departments are highly demanding workplaces. Staff members are regularly exposed to various stressors including traumatic events. Correspondingly, several studies report high rates of mental health issues among these occupations. Nevertheless, despite these challenging circumstances, some staff members manage to sustain their mental health. The current study is the first to investigate three health-promoting factors simultaneously among three different, highly demanding occupations. METHODS: The present cross-sectional survey investigated health-promoting factors (sense of coherence - SOC, trait-resilience, locus of control - LOC) and mental health outcomes (general psychopathological symptom burden, posttraumatic stress, burnout) in medical staff (n = 223), police officers (n = 257), and firefighters (n = 100). RESULTS: Among all occupations, SOC, trait-resilience, and an internal LOC were negatively associated with general psychopathological symptoms, posttraumatic stress, and burnout symptoms. By contrast, all these outcome measures were positively correlated with an external LOC. Multiple regression models including all health-promoting factors explained 56% of the variance in general psychopathological symptoms and 27% in posttraumatic stress symptoms. Among all occupations, SOC was the strongest predictor of both general psychopathological symptom burden and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Multigroup path analyses revealed minor differences across occupations, mainly driven by a stronger influence of LOC in police officers. CONCLUSION: Across all occupations, SOC was identified as the most important health-promoting factor. Future longitudinal studies should further examine the causal link between health-promoting factors and mental distress in different workplaces. Such studies will also allow for further development and evaluation of resilience promoting programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2020


  • Burnout
  • Firefighters
  • Locus of control
  • Medical staff
  • Occupation
  • Police
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Resilience
  • Salutogenesis
  • Sense of coherence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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