Student researcher

Dr Heather Bancroft Research Leader

This study has improved the knowledge of the prevalence of mental health disorders amongst Australian volunteer and career firefighters, as well as the understanding of the range of factors contributing to better and worse mental health outcomes.

Four organisations participated in her research: SA Country Fire Service, ACT Fire and Rescue; ACT Rural Fire Service and the NT Fire and Rescue Service. Heather conducted 300 clinical interviews with career and volunteer firefighters to assess their mental health. She then collected additional information through two identical online surveys that were completed by 817 participants in round one and 335 in round two.

Depression and alcohol dependence (both 5.5 per cent) were identified as the two most prevalent rates of mental health disorders experienced in career firefighters during the interviews, while anxiety (4.9 per cent) and depression (4.4 per cent) were the most common disorders found in volunteer firefighters. These results were compared to the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing from 2007, which found that, compared to the general population, volunteer firefighters had a lower rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but higher rates of anxiety, while both career and volunteer firefighters had a higher rate of alcohol dependence. Heather discovered that career firefighters who had high job satisfaction because of aspects like shift work, physical fitness requirements and the responsibility of the job, had fewer symptoms of PTSD and depression.

Dr Bancroft says that the research is showing that a supportive and open culture within the fire services will help to reduce the stigma associated with having a mental health problem.

This project was completed in October 2019.

Year Type Citation
2019 Thesis Bancroft, H. Wellbeing of firefighters: the impact of individual factors, potentially traumatic event exposure, and operational and organisational factors on mental health outcomes. Medicine, Dentistry and Health Services Doctor of Psychiatry, (2019).
2018 Conference Paper Bancroft, H. Prevalence and predictors of mental health in firefighters. AFAC18 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2018 Conference Paper Bates, J. Research proceedings from the 2018 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
Wellbeing of firefighters
25 Aug 2014
This project aims to investigate the wellbeing of Australian urban and regional firefighters as well as the...
What Factors Contribute to Better and Worse Mental Health in Firefighters
18 Aug 2015
This project aims to investigate which individual, operational and organisational factors contribute most to...
Heather Bancroft Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016
This study will improve our knowledge of the prevalence of mental health disorders amongst Australian...
Improving our knowledge of the mental health and wellbeing of firefighters
30 Jun 2017
This study aims to:Identify the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and alcohol...
Prevalence and predictors of mental health in firefighters
18 Sep 2018
This study aimed to identify the prevalence and predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),...
03 Sep 2019
What is the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse...