In the heavily male-dominated firefighting profession, female firefighters are more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and contemplate suicide, say researchers.

“Because women are such a small number of the population in each fire station, they have been somewhat overlooked when they are included in larger studies and their unique issues are lost,” said Consuelo Arbona, Professor at the University of Houston in the US.

“This study begins to explore work and mental health characteristics of women firefighters who make up a population that needs better understanding,” Arbona added.

For the study, the research team separately evaluated data from women and men in a large urban fire department and examined their responses against each other.

The research team evaluated the data collected from 2,639 firefighters. Of those, only 75 respondents were women and approximately 20 per cent of them scored positively for PTSD and 30 per cent reported lifetime suicidal ideation.

“Compared to male firefighters, women were at high risk for PTSD symptoms and suicide ideation,” the study said.
“Women who had second jobs tended to show higher levels of stress, possibly due to having children at home,” said Arbona.

The findings were published in Occupational Medicine Journal.