Stress Another Hazard of the Job for Police Officers09/08/2012
Not surprisingly, high levels of stress are a regular part of the job faced by
police officers. A recent study revealed that the psychological stress that
police officers experience in their day to day work puts them at a higher risk
for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and other physical and mental health
ailments. They may even face an increased risk for suicide.
The Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study evaluated 464 police officers from the Buffalo Police Department, over a five year period, to examine the association between the stress of being a police officer and psychological and health outcomes. The findings demonstrate that police work by itself can seriously affect the health of officers, according to the study's principal investigator John Violanti, PhD, professor of social and preventive medicine at the University of Buffalo.
The research was founded on the assumption that the danger, high demands and exposure to human misery and death that police officers experience on the job contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health issues. The researchers also wanted to know what other contributing factors lead to cardiovascular disease in police.
Shift work, for example, was found to be a contributing factor to an increase in metabolic syndrome (a cluster of symptoms believed to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes). Researchers found that as a group, officers who work nights have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome than those who work day shifts, an important fact considering that 46.9 percent of officers in the BCOPS study worked a non-day shift compared to just 9 percent of U.S. workers.
40 percent of the officers were obese, compared with 32 percent of the general population.
More than 25 percent of the officers had metabolic syndrome versus 18.7 percent of the general population.
The officers studied were at increased risk of developing Hodgkin's lymphoma and brain cancer after 30 years of service.
Suicide rates were more than eight times higher in working officers than they were in officers who had retired or left the police force, challenging the common belief that officers who have left or retired from the force are at increased risk for suicide.
The study found that the culture of police work is often not supportive of improving health or of those who have problems. Officers who reveal health problems may pay a high price in terms of losing financial status, professional reputation or both. For example, if they have heart disease, they may not be allowed to go back on the street; or if they go for mental health counselling, they may be overlooked for promotions.
Recommendations from the study authors
The study authors recommend that officers in police academy be given appropriate training so they understand signs of stress and how to get them treated. They suggest that middle and upper management in police departments should receive training on how to accept officers who ask for help, and how to ensure that officers are not afraid to ask for that help.
AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety