Secondary traumatic stress in postdisaster field research interviewers

Jim McLennan, Lynette Evans, Sean Cowlishaw, Lindsay Pamment, Lyndsey Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous studies show that those involved in disaster response may develop posttraumatic stress disorder or experience secondary traumatic stress (STS). There are few reports about the experiences of postdisaster field research interviewers. We report findings from a follow-up study of researchers who conducted postwildfire field research interviews with residents affected by 5 severe wildfire events in Australia over the period 2009–2014. There were 33 postwildfire research interviewers who reported their experiences, and 18 of them (54.5%) described distressing interviews involving deaths, surviving severe threats to life, and destruction of houses. There were 27 (81.6%) who reported having experienced 1 or more STS symptoms on a 20-item measure. Those who conducted interviews following a multifatality wildfire event reported higher levels of STS symptoms compared with researchers whose interviews followed nonfatal wildfires. There were 21 (63.6%) researchers who reported that their interviewing experiences had positive effects on their lives. This indicates that the researcher role of gathering information so that future wildfire risk could be mitigated may have served a protective function.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jan 2016


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