Health trajectories of international humanitarian aid workers : growth mixture modelling findings from a prospective cohort study

Most staff stay healthy during humanitarian work, although some worsen. Mean scores on health indicators may be masking individual participants struggling with health issues.



To investigate different field assignment-related health trajectories among international humanitarian aid workers (iHAWs) and explore the mechanisms used to stay healthy.



Growth mixture modelling analyses for five health indicators using pre-/post-assignment and follow-up data.



Among 609 iHAWs three trajectories (profiles) were found for emotional exhaustion, work engagement, anxiety and depression. For post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, four trajectories were identified. The ‘healthy/normative’ trajectory had the largest sample size for all health indicators (73–86%). A stable (moderate) ‘ill health’ trajectory was identified for all health indicators (7–17%), except anxiety. An ‘improving’ trajectory was found for PTSD and anxiety symptoms (5–14%). A minority of staff (4–15%) worsened on all health indicators. Deterioration continued for PTSD, depressive symptoms and work engagement 2 months post-assignment. A strong sense of coherence was associated with higher odds of belonging to the ‘healthy’ trajectory. Female biological sex was associated with higher odds of belonging to the ‘worsening’ depression and anxiety trajectories. Extended duration of field assignment was related to higher odds of belonging to the ‘worsening’ depressive symptoms trajectory.



Most iHAWs stayed healthy during their assignment; a stable ‘ill health’ trajectory was identified for most health indicators. Sense of coherence is an important mechanism for understanding the health of all iHAWs in the different health trajectories, including the ‘healthy’ profile. These findings give new possibilities to develop activities to prevent worsening health and help strengthen iHAWs’ ability to remain healthy under stress.

Kaz de Jong, Saara. E. Martinmäki, Hans te Brake, Ivan Komproe, Rolf J. Kleber and Joris F. G. Haagen | 2023
In: BJPsych Open ; ISSN: 2056-4724 | 9 | 3 | May | E83
Adults, Anxiety Disorders, Coping Behavior, Depressive Disorders, Emotional States, Humanitarian Staff Care, Instruments, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD (DSM-5), PTSD (en), Research, Self Efficacy, Sense of Coherence, Social Support, Statistical Analysis, Stressors