Cardiovascular risk as a moderator of associations among anxiety sensitivity, distress tolerance, PTSD and depression symptoms among trauma-exposed firefighters. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Firefighters experience frequent and severe trauma exposure, which places them at elevated risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression. Cardiovascular issues may exacerbate the effects of mental health risk factors, such as anxiety sensitivity (AS) and distress tolerance (DT), on PTSD and depression. The current study investigated cardiovascular risk as a moderator of associations between risk factors (AS and DT) and psychiatric symptoms (PTSD and depression) among firefighters. METHODS: Participants were 836 trauma-exposed active duty firefighters (93.90% men; with mean age 38years, [SD=9]). Participants endorsing at least one of three cardiovascular risk items-experiencing current high blood pressure, history of heart problems, and experiencing chest pains in the past 2years-were considered high in cardiovascular risk. RESULTS: A structural equation model indicated that higher AS was associated with greater PTSD (=0.38, p<.01) and depression symptoms (=0.32, p<.01); lower DT was associated with greater PTSD (=-0.18, p<.01) and depression symptoms (=-0.31, p<.01). Multigroup analyses showed that cardiovascular risk moderated the association between 1) AS and PTSD symptoms, but not 2) AS and depression symptoms, 3) DT and PTSD symptoms, or 4) DT and depression symptoms. For those high in cardiovascular risk, higher AS was associated more strongly with greater PTSD symptoms (high cardiovascular risk group: =0.46, p<.01]; low cardiovascular risk group: =0.33, p<.01). CONCLUSIONS: High cardiovascular risk may contribute to PTSD symptoms among trauma-exposed firefighters with high AS. These results highlight the importance of considering physical and mental health vulnerabilities in first responder populations.

published proceedings

  • J Psychosom Res

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Ranney, R. M., Bing-Canar, H., Paltell, K. C., Tran, J. K., Berenz, E. C., & Vujanovic, A. A.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Ranney, Rachel M||Bing-Canar, Hanaan||Paltell, Katherine C||Tran, Jana K||Berenz, Erin C||Vujanovic, Anka A

publication date

  • December 2020