Coping Behavior and Risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Federal Disaster Responders

George T. Loo, Charles J. Dimaggio, Robyn R. Gershon, David B. Canton, Stephen S. Morse, Sandro Galea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Our knowledge about the impact of coping behavior styles in people exposed to stressful disaster events is limited. Effective coping behavior has been shown to be a psychosocial stress modifier in both occupational and nonoccupational settings. Methods Data were collected by using a web-based survey that administered the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist-Civilian, General Coping Questionnaire-30, and a supplementary questionnaire assessing various risk factors. Logistic regression models were used to test for the association of the 3 coping styles with probable PTSD following disaster exposure among federal disaster responders. Results In this sample of 549 study subjects, avoidant coping behavior was most associated with probable PTSD. In tested regression models, the odds ratios ranged from 1.19 to 1.26 and 95% confidence intervals ranged from 1.08 to 1.35. With control for various predictors, emotion-based coping behavior was also found to be associated with probable PTSD (odds ratio=1.11; 95% confidence interval: 1.01-1.22). Conclusion This study found that in disaster responders exposed to traumatic disaster events, the likelihood of probable PTSD can be influenced by individual coping behavior style and other covariates. The continued probability of disasters underscores the critical importance of these findings both in terms of guiding mental health practitioners in treating exposed disaster responders and in stimulating future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-117
Number of pages10
JournalDisaster medicine and public health preparedness
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • coping behavior
  • disaster medicine
  • emergency responders
  • mental health
  • post-traumatic
  • stress disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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