Mindfulness Reduces the Impact of Musculoskeletal Disease and Stress on Firefighters
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“The payoff of being calm and mindful is the strawberry; all those beautiful moments in life, that if we don’t slow down, we’ll miss. And that is a real tragedy. So be brave, be kind, fight fires, and be mindful!” – Hersch Wilson
First responders such as firefighters and police experience stressful and traumatic events as part of their jobs. In addition, the physical nature of the job can produce musculoskeletal problems for the firefighters. The effects of these stresses and injuries are troubling problems for firefighters that need to be addressed. Mindfulness has been shown to has been shown to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress, to reduce the impact of trauma on the individual, and to decrease burnout. So, a firefighter’s mindfulness may be essential to the individual’s ability to deal with the stresses of the profession and produce greater resilience.
In today’s Research News article “Moderated Mediation Effect of Mindfulness on the Relationship Between Muscular Skeletal Disease, Job Stress, and Turnover Among Korean Firefighters.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7303520/), Lee and colleagues surveyed firefighters in Korea with questions regarding musculoskeletal disease, job stress, mindfulness, and intention to leave firefighting.
They found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of job stress and intention to leave firefighting. They also found that the higher the levels of job stress the higher the levels of musculoskeletal disease and the intention to leave firefighting. Mediation analysis determined that musculoskeletal disease increased the levels of job stress and that increased intention to leave firefighting. But the higher the levels the of mindfulness the lower the ability of musculoskeletal disease to increase the intention to leave firefighting.
These are correlative results so causation cannot be determined. Nevertheless, the intention to leave firefighting appears to be associated with job stress and this is increased by the firefighter having musculoskeletal problems. It makes sense that having musculoskeletal problems would make it more difficult for the firefighters to perform their duties, increasing stress. So, musculoskeletal problems make the job more difficult, increasing stress and resulting in an increase in the intention to quit the profession.
Mindfulness has been shown in extensive research studies to decrease the individual’s physiological and psychological responses to stress. It has also been shown to reduce burnout and the likelihood that the individual will leave a profession. The present study confirms these effects of mindfulness and extends them to firefighters. Mindfulness, however, has an additional effect of decreasing the impact of musculoskeletal disease on job stress and in turn an increase in the intention to leave firefighting. So, mindfulness appears to protect firefighters from musculoskeletal diseases increasing the stress of their jobs and the intention to leave firefighting.
So, reduce the impact of musculoskeletal disease and stress on firefighters with mindfulness.
“targeted mindfulness training program increases some aspects of firefighter resilience (distress tolerance, positive adjustment, and perseverance).” – AMRA
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Lee, J. H., Lee, J., & Lee, K. S. (2020). Moderated Mediation Effect of Mindfulness on the Relationship Between Muscular Skeletal Disease, Job Stress, and Turnover Among Korean Firefighters. Safety and Health at Work, 11(2), 222–227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shaw.2020.03.006
This study investigated the effect of increased job stress, caused by musculoskeletal disease (MSD) among firefighters, on a firefighter’s intention to leave the profession, henceforth referred to as “turnover intention,” and verified the moderating effect of mindfulness on such a relationship.
A survey involving a total of 549 Korean male firefighters as participants was conducted herein, and the following results were obtained: the mediation effect of the MSD to turnover intention through job stress was confirmed, and the indirect effect of job stress was verified.
We verified the moderated mediation effect of mindfulness on the relation:MSD, job stress, and turnover intention. The conditional indirect effect for middle and high levels of mindfulness is significant.
The result of this study is supported by proofs of the relationship between a firefighter’s MSD, job stress, and turnover intention, and these case studies reveal the moderated mediation effect of dispositional mindfulness.