What is in this article?:
- On-the-Job Stress Negatively Impacts Police Officer Health, Study Suggests
- An Unhealthy Culture
In the line of duty, police officers face more than public safety concerns: They also face stress, which can negatively impact their physical and mental health, according to researchers at the University of Buffalo (UB).
The Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study was conducted over a 5-year period to examine the effects of stress on 464 members of the Buffalo Police Department. The findings reveal that police officers experience daily psychological stress that puts them at an increased risk of various long-term health effects that may include cardiovascular disease, obesity, suicide, sleeplessness and cancer.
“Usually, health disparities are defined by socioeconomic and ethnic factors, but here you have a health disparity caused by an occupation,” said John Violanti, Ph.D., professor of social and preventive medicine in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, and principal investigator on the study.
The study was prompted by the assumption that the high demands, danger 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 outcomes.
Key study findings include:
- 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, a cluster of symptoms believed to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, versus 18.7 percent of the general population.
- Officers who worked night shifts had a higher risk of metabolic syndrome than those who work day shifts. Nearly half (46.9 percent) of officers in the study worked a non-day shift compared to just 9 percent of U.S. workers.
- Female and male officers experiencing the highest level of self-reported stress were four and six times more likely to have poor sleep quality, respectively.
- Officers 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.