Journal Article

Humanitarian Relief Workers and Trauma-related Mental Illness

Ellen Connorton, Melissa J. Perry, David Hemenway and Matthew Miller

in Epidemiologic Reviews

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 34, issue 1, pages 145-155
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0193-936X
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1478-6729 | DOI:
Humanitarian Relief Workers and Trauma-related Mental Illness

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Humanitarian relief work is a growing field characterized by ongoing exposure to primary and secondary trauma, which has implications for workers’ occupational mental health. This paper reviews and summarizes research to date on mental health effects of relief work. Twelve studies on relief workers and 5 studies on organizations that employ relief workers are examined to determine whether relief work is a risk factor for trauma-related mental illness. Although studies are inconsistent regarding methods and outcomes documenting trauma-related mental illness among relief workers, it appears that relief workers, compared with the general population, experience elevated trauma rates and suffer from more posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Organizations that employ relief workers have varying approaches to train for these risks, and more support in the field is needed.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; mental health; relief work; stress disorders, post-traumatic; stress disorders, traumatic, acute; stress, psychological; substance-related disorders

Journal Article.  5511 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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