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Research Area


Our research in this area focuses on work-related violence and trauma, for example, in the police and employees in residential care centres, psychiatric wards and the like. On this page you can get an overview of relevant sub-topics, projects and publications related to the research area.

The research area of  'Work' covers our research on work-related trauma. The research includes trauma in connection with high-risk jobs and trauma in healthcare professionals, such as psychiatric staff and social pedagogues.
The research area also covers robberies, including the acute reactions to armed robbery and bank robbery, and the later psychological reactions and predictors of PTSD. We also focus on how to prevent burnout in trauma-exposed personnel and how to best organize debriefing.  

You will find an overview of current and completes projects of the research area below. You can see a more detailed description of each project and the relevant publications. 

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  •  If you are interested in the projects of the explosion disasters respectively at Lindø and in Seest, take a look at our research area of 'Disasters and Terror' here.


Projects related to the research area of Work:

Ongoing projects

It has been demonstrated that working with trauma-exposed children increases the risk for developing secondary traumatisation (ST) and burnout (BO). High correlations between ST and BO have been reported, suggesting an empirical overlap between the constructs. The purpose of the present review was to synthesise research investigating covariates of BO and ST to explore whether this overlap extends to covariates. Seven research databases were searched for studies investigating covariates of both BO and ST. Identified studies were screened in accordance with predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria, resulting in thirteen articles being included for further review. Fourteen covariates were examined in two or more of the included studies and were synthesised according to the ‘levels of evidence approach’. Some individual and operational factors appeared to be equally related to BO and ST. There was a predominance of equivocal evidence for and against the salience of different covariates as well as an over-representation of demographic factors compared to organisational and operational factors in the current literature. More research investigating the nature of the overlap between BO and ST is needed, and future research would benefit from integrating covariates supported in the work and organisational literature with covariates from the psychotraumatological literature.

Current issue:
Vang, M. L., Gleeson, C., Hansen, M. & Shevlin, M. (2019). Covariates of burnout and secondary traumatisation in professionals working with child-survivors of trauma: A research synthesis. British Journal of Social Work

Related publications:
Vang, M.L. (2020). Occupational well-being among Danish child protection workers: Prevalence, predictors and prevention of secondary traumatisation and burnout. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Ulster University, Coleraine, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.

Vang, M.L., Shevlin, M., Hansen, M. Askerod, D.K.K., Lund, L., & Flanagan, N. (2020). Secondary traumatisation, burnout and functional impairment among child protection workers: Findings from a Danish survey. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, special issue on CONTEXT.

Vang, M.L., Pihl-Thingvad, J. & Shevlin, M. (2020, January) Screening for secondary traumatisation among Danish child protection workers: A latent variable approach. Poster presentation accepted at the 1st National Network Meeting for Trauma Researchers in Denmark, Odense, Denmark.

Vang, M.L., Hansen, M., Bramsen, R.H., Askerod, D., Lund, L., and Shevlin, M. (2017, October). Employee well-being in cross-sectoral child-protection -Operationalising the importance of cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary collaboration for employee well-being. Poster presented at the 15th ISPCAN European Regional Conference on Child Abuse & Neglect, The Hague, The Netherlands.

Vang, M.L., Hansen, M., Bramsen, R.H., Askerod, D., Lund, L., and Shevlin, M. (2017, June). Helping the Helpers: Preventing secondary traumatisation and burn-out amongst professionals working with survivors of child-abuse. Poster presented at the The 15th European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Conference, Odense, Denmark

Burnout and workplace violence (WPV) have been associated in cross-sectional studies, but longitudinal studies with solid methods and adequate sample sizes are lacking. This study investigates whether WPV increases burnout symptoms during a 12-month period. Methods: Questionnaire data were collected on 1823 social educators at baseline and 12-month follow-up, coupled with additionally 12 monthly text-message surveys on exposure to WPV. Using general linear modelling for repeated measures, we estimated change over time in burnout symptoms in three WPV exposure groups (none, low, high). Results: A time by exposure to WPV interaction existed for development of burnout; F(2) = 7.2, p = 0.001 η 2 = 0.011. Burnout increased significantly within the group of low exposure; F(1) = 6.8, p = 0.01 and high exposure; F(1) = 6.7 p = 0.001, but not within the non-exposed F(1) = 2.1 p = 0.15. At follow-up, both the low exposed and high exposed had significantly higher levels of burnout compared to the non-exposed. Conclusion: Exposure to WPV increases level of burnout within a 12-month period. We propose that assessment of burnout in future studies should utilize instruments capable of detecting small changes. We further propose that prevention against employee burnout could be improved using monitoring targeted at employees exposed to WPV.

Current issue:
Pihl-Thingvad, J., Elklit, A., Brandt, L. P. A., & Andersen, L. L. (2019). Workplace violence and development of burnout symptoms: a prospective cohort study on 1823 social educators. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 92(6), 843-853. Doi: 10.1007/s00420-019-01424-5

Related publications:
Pihl-Thingvad, J., Elklit, A., Brandt, L.L.P. & Andersen, L.L.(2019) Occupational Violence and PTSD-Symptoms: A Prospective Study on the Indirect Effects of Violence Through Time Pressure and Nontraumatic Strains in the Occupational Context. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 61(7), 572-583. Doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001612.

Pihl-Thingvad, J., Andersen L.L., Brandt L.P.A. & Elklit, A.(2019) Are frequency and severity of workplace violence etiologic factors of posttraumatic stress disorder? A 1-year prospective study of 1,763 social educators. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24(5), 543-555. Doi: 10.1037/ocp0000148.

Pihl-Thingvad, J., Jacobsen, C. W., Brandt, L. P. A., Andersen, L. L., Elklit, A. & Courvoisier, D. (2018). The Regret Coping Scale for Health-Care Professionals (RCS-HCP): A validation study with Danish social educators. Work, 60(3), 401-410.

The project examines the occurrence of secondary traumatisation and burnout among Danish district attorneysin a cross-sectional study. This project also examines how different work environment factors, case-related circumstances and protection measures either enhance or protect against the development of secondary traumatisation and burnout. This project is conducted from the period of September 2019 to December 2021, and is based on a questionnaire survey among Danishdistrict attorneys.

Current issues:

  • Traumatisation and burnout among danish prosecutors - Results from the 2019 questionnaire. To read the current issue in danish, click here

Completed projects

Psychiatric staff is at risk of workplace violence (WV) and subsequent posttraumatic symptomatology. The current study assesses the prevalence of acute stress disorder (ASD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in psychiatric staff following WV. This also examines the prospective association between ASD and PTSD. The current study is a prospective cohort study of staff from 18 psychiatric wards in Denmark (n = 250), that reported an incident of workplace violence. ASD seems to be a predictor of future PTSD in an occupational context and should be considered a possible instrument in enactment of preventive strategies.

Current issue:
Ali, S. A., Pihl-Thingvad, J. & Elklit, A. (2020). Does Acute Stress Disorder predict Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in psychiatric staff exposed to workplace violence? A prospective longitudinal study. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. Doi:10.1007/s00420020-01586-7

Each year, numerous bank robberies take place worldwide. Even so, only few studies have investigated the psychological sequelae of bank robbery and little is known about the risk factors associated with the development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following this potentially traumatic event. Knowledge about risk factors related to PTSD may allow for preventive measures to be taken against the development of PTSD and reduce the large cost associated with the disorder. Furthermore, the few existing studies are characterized by several limitations such as the use of small convenience or self-selecting samples. To overcome these limitations, we investigated the estimated prevalence rate of acute stress disorder (ASD) and PTSD and predictors of PTSD severity in a Danish cohort study of all bank employees exposed to robbery during one year (N = 614). A total of 450 employees (73 %) filled out the first questionnaire a week after the robbery (T1). Of these, 371 employees (82 %) filled out the second questionnaire six months after the robbery (T2). Results showed that 11.1% of the participants suffered from ASD (T1) and 6.2 % suffered from PTSD (T2). The results of a hierarchical regression analysis showed that 51 % of the variance in PTSD severity could be explained with only peritraumatic dissociation, ASD severity, and negative cognitions about self being significant predictors. However, interpretation of the role of peritraumatic dissociation in the regression model was hampered by a statistical artifact (negative suppression). The strongest predictors of PTSD severity were ASD severity followed by negative cognitions about self. This indicates that victims with high levels of ASD are at increased risk of developing PTSD following bank robbery. Thus, screening for PTSD following bank robbery should focus on ASD severity. In accordance with a cognitive model of PTSD and the DSM-5, the results show that posttraumatic negative cognitions about self also seem to play a pivotal role in the development of PTSD following bank robbery. This indicates that it may be possible to develop preventive cognitive interventions targeted at bank employees that focus on changing negative cognitions about self.

Current issue: 
Hansen, M. & Elklit, A. (2014). Who Develops Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Following a Bank Robbery? A National Cohort Study. In Simmons, J. P. (Ed.) Banking: Performance, Challenges and Prospects for Development (s. 25-62). NY: Nova Publishers.

Related publications:
Hansen, M., Armour, C., Shevlin, M., & Elklit, A. (2014). Investigating the Psycho-logical Impact of Bank robbery: a Cohort Study. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 28, 454-459. Doi 10.1016/j.janxdis.2014.04.0050887-6185

Hansen, M., Lasgaard, M. & Elklit, A. (2013). The Latent Factor Structure of Acute Stress Disorder following Bank Robbery: Testing Alternative Models in the light of the pending DSM-5. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 52, 82-91.

Hansen, M. & Elklit, A. (2012): Does acute stress disorder predict posttraumatic stress disorder following bank robbery? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28 (1), 25-44. Doi: 10.1177/0886260512448848

Hansen, M. & Elklit, A.(2012): Et nationalt studie af bankrøveri – de psykologiske følgevirkninger og prædikatorer for PTSD. Odense: Videnscenter for Psykotraumatologi, Syddansk Universitet. 1-49

Hansen, M., Armour, C. & Elklit, A.(2012): Assessing a Dysphoric Arousal model of Acute Stress Disorder Symptoms in a Clinical Sample of Rape and Bank Robbery Victims. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 3. Doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v3i0.18201


Paramedics, firefighters, police officers, soldiers and rescue team workers have to act fast and efficient in spite of repeatedly being exposed to violent incidents. Many cope with this stress because of their education and training as well as their motivation for this type of job about rescuing people. Personality factors and organizational circumstances play an important role in resistance. Health consequences have been examined by looking at acute stress, PTSD, anxiety, depression and somatic diseases; hypertension, muscle and joint injury and heart problems. In this review, we found that the paramedics and firefighters are in high risk of early retirement. Other studies show, that 20% of paramedics and 17% of firefighters develop PTSD.

Completed: 2012

Related  publications
Bonde, B., & Elklit, A. (2012). Psykiske og somatiske problemer hos mennesker med højrisiko jobs. Odense: Syddansk Universitet. Videnscenter for Psykotraumatologi.

Relevant publications

Elklit, A. (2013) Does Safety Training works? An Empirical Study. Odense: Syddansk Universitet. (1-18).

This project is concerned with police officers trauma reactions and ended in the creation of the book chapter mentioned below. Police officers are with high likelihood exposed to traumatic experiences through their work. Most do not develop severe reactions, but some do. The chapter focusses on factors as social support, job type and characteristics of the event, which influence how the traumatic event affects the individual. The chapter also presents preventive and intervention strategies, as well as how they can be applied to minimize the negative consequences of traumatization with police officers.

Completed: 2019

Related publications
Jørgensen, L. K. & Elklit, A. (2019). Trauma and critical incident exposure in law enforcement. In Marques, P. & Paulino, M. (Eds.) Police Psychology: New Trends in Forensic Psychological Science (pp xxx-xxx). Amsterdam: Elsevier

Twelve Kosovo-Albanian interpreters at the Danish Red Cross (DRC) asylum reception centre participated in an interview about their background and work. The majority had fled from the Serbian persecution in Kosovo, which involved living in a permanently hypervigilant stat, with intense fear of rape, ethnic suppression and civil war. All of the interpreters reported a heavy workload and a high level of distress. The most distressing part was interpreting at interviews for psychologists, where stories of torture, annihilation, persecution, and loss were told. A considerate and respectful treatment of this staff group may enhance the quality of therapeutic work as the interpreters get an opportunity to contribute with their culture specific knowledge. Stress and coping in traumatized interpreters - a pilot study of refugee interpreters working for a humanitarian organization. 


Current issue: 
Holmgren, H., Søndergård, H., & Elklit, A.(2003). Stress and coping in traumatized inter-preters – a pilot study of refugee interpreters working for a humanitarian organization. Intervention – International Journal of Mental Health, Psychosocial Work and Counselling in Areas of Armed Conflict, 1(3), 22-27.

Related publications:
Søndergaard, H., Holmgren, H., & Elklit, A.(2003). Tolkning i terapi: Problemer og kvalifikationskrav. Psyke & Logos, 24(1), 432-456.

The purpose of this study was to examine acute distress in a group of 65 shop employees, of which 72% had been victims of armed robbery and the others had suffered life-threatening circumstances, physical or psychological assault or captivity, or they had seen people being injured or killed. In all, 25% suffered from acute stress disorder. A number of associations were found between background variables (gender, age, marital status, education, and life events) and traumatization, symptomatology, defense style, social support, and coping style. Previous workplace training in relation to robbery was not associated with symptoms. Gender, marriage, contact to other victims, optimism, and anxiety explained 60% of the acute stress disorder variance.

Current issue: 
Elklit, A. (2002). Acute stress disorder in victims of robbery and victims of assault. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17(8), 872-887.

Related publications
Elklit, A. & Brink, O.(2004) Acute stress disorder as a predictor of posttraumatic stress disorder in physical assault victims. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19(6), 709-726.

Elklit, A. (2000). Akutte følger af væbnet røveri. Forskningsnyt fra psykologien, 9(2), 1-3.

Elklit, A. (1999). Røveriofre—de psykologiske konsekvenser af et væbnet røveri. Psykologisk Skriftsserie, 24(5), 1-65.

Aims of the Study: (1) To assess the associations of care-related regrets with job satisfaction and turnover intention; and (2) to examine whether these associations are partially mediated by coping strategies. Methods: Data came from ICARUS, a prospective international cohort study of novice healthcare professionals working in acute care hospitals and clinics from various countries (e.g., Australia, Austria, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, France, Haiti, Ireland, Kenya, the United Kingdom and United States). Care-related regrets (number of regrets and regret intensity), coping strategies, job satisfaction and turnover intention were assessed weekly for 1 year. Results: 229 young healthcare professionals (2387 observations) were included in the analysis. For a given week, experiencing a larger number of care-related regrets was associated with decreased job satisfaction, and experiencing more intense care-related regrets was associated with increased turnover intention. These associations were partially mediated by coping strategies. Maladaptive emotion-focused strategies were associated with decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover intention, whereas adaptive problem-focused strategies showed the opposite pattern. Conclusions: Our results revealed that care-related regrets and maladaptive coping strategies are associated with job dissatisfaction and the intention to quit patient care. Helping healthcare professionals to cope with these emotional experiences seems essential to prevent early job quitting.

Current issue:
Cheval, B., Cullati, S., Mongin, D., Schmidt, R.E., Lauper, K., Pihl-Thingvad, J., Chopard, P. & Courvoisier, D.S.(2019) Associations of regrets and coping strategies with job satisfaction and turnover intention: international prospective cohort study of novice healthcare professionals. Swiss Medical Weekly. Doi: 10.4414/smw.2019.20074.

Related publications:
Pihl-Thingvad, J., Jacobsen, C. W., Brandt, L. P. A., Andersen, L. L., Elklit, A. & Courvoisier, D. (2018). The Regret Coping Scale for Health-Care Professionals (RCS-HCP): A validation study with Danish social educators. Work, 60(3), 401-410.

Cheval, B., Cullati, S., Pihl-Thingvad, J., Mongin, D., Von Arx, M., Chopard, P. & Courvoisier, D.S.(2018) Impact of CAre-related Regret Upon Sleep (ICARUS) cohort study: Protocol of a 3-year multicentre, international, prospective cohort study of novice healthcare professionals. BMJ Open, 27, 8(3). Doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-022172.

This project studied the psychological and social consequences in the survivors and the bereaved after the train accident on the great Belt Bridge on 2th January 2019. Accidents and catastrophes influence many people, and some of them develop mental health symptoms. From the train accident in Sorø in 1989, we know that part of the rescue team developed PTSD. Catastrophe experiences after terror in Norway and England has shown, that many affected do not seek help, because they think their problems will disappear or that others are doing worse, and is in more need of the help than they are. To ensure that everyone who is in need of treatment gets the necessary help, and to be able to plan optimal initiatives in the future, we examined those who were directly affected. This project examines the rescue team’s reactions.