Post-traumatic stress symptoms and alcohol-related outcomes among municipal firefighters: Exploring the mediational role of drinking motives and maladaptive coping strategies

Anabel Cardiel, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Due to the frequent exposure to traumatic events, the firefighting profession places firefighters at high risk for PTSD symptoms (Berger et al., 2011). Consequently, those experiencing PTSD symptoms are inclined to consume alcohol to cope with related symptoms or to alleviate psychological distress. Two theories that guided this study are the Stress and Coping Theory (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), and the Self-Medication Hypothesis (Khantzian, 1985). The main purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between PTSD symptoms and alcohol-related outcomes including At-Risk Drinking, Alcohol-Related Outcomes and Alcohol Consumption, in a population of El Paso firefighters (n = 740). Secondarily, this study examined the meditational role of Drinking Motives, specifically Drinking to Cope, and Maladaptive Coping Strategies, such as Substance Use, in this relationship. As expected, a positive relationship was found between PTSD symptoms and all alcohol-related outcomes. Results report that firefighters drink approximately 2 (range 0–7) days a week, for an average of 7 hours (range 0–59), and consume an average of 10 (range 0–70) drinks during a typical week. Approximately, 32.7% of firefighters are engaged in some level of At-Risk Drinking, and 46.6% have experienced Alcohol-Related Problems. It was also found that both, Drinking to Cope and Substance use, had a mediating effect on this relationship. Best model fits were those that included Drinking to Cope and Conformity motives, and Substance Use Coping Strategies as mediators on the relationship of PTSD symptoms on alcohol-related outcomes. Findings in this study indicate the need for prevention strategies for stress-related disorders as well as alcohol-related intervention programs. There needs to be an increase in support for the firefighter profession in order to strengthen education on how to prevent or reduce the onset of PTSD symptoms, as well decrease alcohol consumption and alcohol-related outcomes. Implementing a general approach in the education of coping strategies may be more effective in this particular population than the teaching of specific types of coping. Strengths and limitations of this study are discussed.^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Occupational Health and Safety|Psychology, Behavioral|Health Sciences, Public Health

Recommended Citation

Cardiel, Anabel, "Post-traumatic stress symptoms and alcohol-related outcomes among municipal firefighters: Exploring the mediational role of drinking motives and maladaptive coping strategies" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1533211.
http://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI1533211

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