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What is the current prevalence of depression in emergency ambulance staff? A literature review

Posted on 11th June 2020 by

Evidence Reviews

During the final year of their Paramedic Science (BSc Hons) course at Oxford Brookes University, students carry out a literature review and critical appraisal of a topic relevant to their future practice.  This blog presents the abstract of a literature review on the ‘prevalence of depression in emergency ambulance staff’.Other Paramedic topic blogs can be found here.


This paper will begin by synthesizing the literature on the prevalence of depression in ambulance staff following work-related exposure to traumatic stress, and occupation-specific risk factors. Then prevention strategies and treatment options currently being used, which are tailored for individuals who are dealing with mental health issues stemming from occupation-specific traumatic-stress exposure, will be discussed.  The unique challenges of treating ambulance staff with other issues such as sleep disturbances and lack of routine will be examined. The paper will be concluded by discussing notable gaps in the literature, and where improvements in current practice could be made.


This paper was conducted in the form of a literature review. The databases searched included Pubmed, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Cochrane. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied to find relevant and up-to-date literature on the topic. Six research papers were selected for inclusion in the review, based on their quality and relevance to the subject. These were then critiqued using the CASP critical appraisal tool.


Themes were identified manually by using QSR International’s NVivo 12 qualitative data analysis software to highlight common topics. The key themes identified were: the prevalence of depression, co-morbidities, occupational risk factors, prevention, and support. Exploring these themes enabled a greater understanding of the factors associated with an increased prevalence of depression in ambulance staff. These themes were discussed with reference to key concepts that linked the themes and their impact on the prevalence of depression.


This study has identified several significant risk factors that influence the likelihood of ambulance staff developing depression. Emergency ambulance staff appear to have a prevalence of depression higher than that of the general population. However, due to the heterogeneity of estimated depression in this cohort, further research is warranted to have a greater understanding of the problem facing this high-risk population. The findings pose significant implications for practice and research and serve to generate hypotheses for the continuation of exploration into these issues.

References (pdf)


Chloe Townsend

I am a newly qualified Paramedic, former Oxford Brookes University (OBU) student and CPD lead for the OBU ParaSoc. My interests include prehospital care, remote medicine & endurance challenges. View more posts from Chloe

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