Publication Details

D. Chappell & C. Mayhew, 'Ambulance officers: the impact of exposure to occupational violence on mental and physical health' (2009) 25 (1) The Journal of Ocupational Health and Safety Australia and New Zealand 37-49.


Health workers in general, and ambulance officers in particular, experience significant levels of occupational violence. In this article, the results are reported from a study which gathered both quantitative and qualitative data on the occupational violence encountered by 40 ambulance officers working in a large Australian health agency. Each officer was interviewed face-to-face, completed a detailed questionnaire with both qualitative and quantitative responses required, and also completed the abbreviated General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), an instrument which has been validated across a range of international studies to measure emotional stress. The stUdy findings showed, among other things, a high risk of exposure to overt violence and also a clear rise in GHQ scores that was correlated with increasing exposure to occupational violence over the previous 12-month period, with officers from rural areas having higher scores than those in urban areas. Very high scores came disproportionately from those who had either experienced a series of violent events or who had been bullied. The authors conclude that greater attention needs to be given to the prevention of mental health consequences from occupational violence among ambulance officers, in addition to those directed at minimising physical injuries.

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