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Humanitarian aid workers in Uganda show signs of stress, depression, and burnout
Date:2/1/2013

arian work.

Workers with the United Nations and its related agencies reported fewest overall symptoms. In comparison, those working for international NGOs reported significantly more signs of depression. Dr. Ager points to the structure of the UN and related organizations that serves as a protective function for national humanitarian workers.

"Although increased exposure to stressors is an inevitable consequence of working in humanitarian contexts, these findings clearly demonstrate that the characteristics of the organizational environment significantly influence the mental health and wellbeing of staff in such settings," noted Dr. Ager, who is also Director of the Program in Leadership in Global Health and Humanitarian Systems at the Mailman School.

The findings also show that over 50% of workers experienced five or more categories of traumatic events. Higher levels of social support, stronger team cohesion, and reduced exposure to chronic stressors were associated with improved mental health.

There are therefore a number of practical measures that the humanitarian agencies can do to help lessen the adverse mental health reported by workers and fortify social support mechanisms, according to Dr. Ager. These actions are:

  • enabling access to the telephone or Internet for personal communications
  • discouraging "presenteeism" and excessive hours spent at work
  • training managers to explicitly recognize good work performance, resolve conflict within teams, and show a commitment to employee welfare


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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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