Trauma exposure and substance use in journalists: A narrative review


Individuals and teams in the journalism community cover stories relating to death, destruction, and tragedy in society, exposing themselves to potentially traumatic events (PTEs). The aim of this review was to explore: (1) the impact trauma exposure may have on substance use, (2) substance use as a method of coping, and (3) personality profiles that are predictive of substance use. Findings indicate that journalists are exposed to a wide variety of PTEs. Despite substance use being considered a trauma reaction in the broader literature, this connection has not been adequately addressed within journalist samples. The most common substance researched in journalists is alcohol consumption, with few studies considering other substances (e.g., nicotine, caffeine, or illicit substances). Future research with journalist samples could evaluate substance use as a method of coping and incorporate broader theory relating to substance use risk personality profiles. There is a need to bridge the gap that exists between broader trauma and substance use literature and a focus on journalist samples, with the intention of: (1) providing a more holistic understanding of psychosocial issues associated with trauma exposure and substance use to inform diagnosis and treatment, (2) assessing risk and protective factors for this community, (3) informing the development of health promotion and education programs specific to practising journalists and journalistic organisations, and (4) highlighting opportunities for trauma specific education targeted at those training to become a journalist, including protective coping strategies.


Williams-Wynn, N. & MacDonald, J. B. (2023). Trauma exposure and substance use in journalists: A narrative review. Australian Community Psychologist, 32(1), 97–114.