Firefighters' stress response to a virtual reality occupationally relevant stressor and a virtual reality laboratory stressor

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Sauder, Christina
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Warren D. Franke
Committee Member
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The Department of Kinesiology seeks to provide an ample knowledge of physical activity and active living to students both within and outside of the program; by providing knowledge of the role of movement and physical activity throughout the lifespan, it seeks to improve the lives of all members of the community. Its options for students enrolled in the department include: Athletic Training; Community and Public Health; Exercise Sciences; Pre-Health Professions; and Physical Education Teacher Licensure. The Department of Physical Education was founded in 1974 from the merger of the Department of Physical Education for Men and the Department of Physical Education for Women. In 1981 its name changed to the Department of Physical Education and Leisure Studies. In 1993 its name changed to the Department of Health and Human Performance. In 2007 its name changed to the Department of Kinesiology. Dates of Existence: 1974-present. Historical Names: Department of Physical Education (1974-1981), Department of Physical Education and Leisure Studies (1981-1993), Department of Health and Human Performance (1993-2007). Related Units: College of Human Sciences (parent college), College of Education (parent college, 1974 - 2005), Department of Physical Education for Women (predecessor) Department of Physical Education for Men
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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare the stress responses of an occupationally-relevant stress (ORS) in a virtual reality environment to a well-established laboratory stressor (LS).

Hypothesis: It was hypothesized that the ORS would be as effective at eliciting a stress response as a well-established LS.

Methods: Firefighters (n=14) from Iowa underwent two different stressor scenarios: LS and ORS. Heart rate (HR), mean arterial pressure (MAP), stroke volume (SV), cardiac output (CO), pre—ejection period (PEP), and total peripheral resistance (TPR) were continuously assessed throughout the two scenarios. Subjective measures of affect (“arousal” and “pleasure”) and workload were assessed immediately after each stressor.

Results: No significant differences in mean responses of HR, MAP, SV, CO, PEP, and TPR were found between the LS and ORS. There were no statistical differences in all physiological responses throughout the journeys of the LS vs. ORS. Measures of “arousal” were similar in the ORS and LS, while measures of “pleasure” were significantly higher in the ORS (p<0.05). Workload scores were significantly higher in the LS than the ORS (p<0.0001).

Discussion: Although subjective measures of “pleasure” and workload were different between the LS and ORS, the firefighters had similar physiological stress responses. This suggests that the ORS is at least as stressful as the LS in terms of physiological responses and is a valid stressor for firefighters when compared to a well-established laboratory stressor. Thus, the ORS can be used as a stressor in future research assessing issues such as work stress in firefighters and its effect on cardiovascular disease and decision-making.

Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2012