Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 May 2020
Firefighting service is known to involve high rates of exposure to potentially traumatic situations, and research on mental health in firefighting populations is of critical importance in understanding the impact of occupational exposure. To date, the literature concerning prevalence of trauma-related mental disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has not distinguished between symptomology associated routine duty-related exposure and exposure to large-scale disaster. The present systematic review synthesizes a heterogeneous cross-national literature on large-scale disaster exposure in firefighters and provides support for the hypothesis that the prevalence of PTSD, major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorders are elevated in firefighters compared with rates observed in the general population. In addition, we conducted narrative synthesis concerning several commonly assessed predictive factors for disorder and found that sociodemographic factors appear to bear a weak relationship to mental disorder, while incident-related factors, such as severity and duration of disaster exposure, bear a stronger and more consistent relationship to the development of PTSD and depression in cross-national samples. Future work should expand on these preliminary findings to better understand the impact of disaster exposure in firefighting personnel.