Women firefighters' health and well-being: An international survey

Emily Watkins, Anthony Walker, Eric Mol, Sara Jahnke, Alan Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This study aimed to identify specific health and well-being issues that women firefighters may experience as part of their daily working practices. Issues identified from this under-represented population can drive future research, education, and strategy to guide safety and health practices. Methods: A total of 840 women firefighters from 14 separate countries (255 United Kingdom and Ireland, 320 North America, 177 Australasia, and 88 mainland Europe) completed the survey over a 4-month period. Questions related to general health and well-being and role-specific health concerns, gender-related issues, and available exercise facilities. Results: Women firefighters in North America reported a higher prevalence of lower back (49%) and lower limb (51%) injuries than all other groups. North American respondents reported more heat illnesses (45%) than respondents from other places (36%). Although many participants did not respond, of those who did, 39% thought the menstrual cycle (199/512) or menopause (55/151) affected their work, and 36% were concerned for their ability to meet future job demands. Sixteen percent felt confident they could complete the role after 60 years of age. Women firefighters identified a lack of strength and conditioning support (50%) or lack of gym access (21%). There appears to be poor availability of female-specific personal protective equipment, with availability greatest in the United Kingdom (66%) compared with the sample as a whole (42%). Conclusions: There is a need for female-specific strength and conditioning support and facilities to decrease injury and illness risk and improve longevity. Research and education into gynecological issues, heat exposure, and their effects on women firefighters’ fertility and cancer risk is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-431
Number of pages8
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2019


  • women
  • female
  • Firefighting
  • fire
  • health
  • Health and safety at work


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