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Police and Stress

Categories: Emergency Response/Public Sector, Stress

Buffalo Police Department logo

By John Violanti

There are approximately 861,000 police officers in the United States (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos160.htm). By the nature of their jobs, many police officers face tremendous stress on a daily basis. Research has shown that police officers are at increased risk for cardiovascular events and may face an increased risk for suicide. Yet, police officers are in general an understudied occupational group. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), together with colleagues at the University at Buffalo (UB), is studying the effects of policing and stress on adverse metabolic and early stage (subclinical) cardiovascular outcomes with the ultimate goal of preventing these and other stress-related disorders.

Researchers are using a physiologic measure of stress, salivary cortisol (often called the “stress hormone”), to assess whether stress is associated with adverse metabolic outcomes (e.g., glucose intolerance and metabolic syndrome—a clustering of metabolic abnormalities including elevated waist circumference, triglycerides, blood pressure, fasting glucose, and reduced HDL cholesterol) and subclinical cardiovascular outcomes (e.g., decreased brachial artery response, increased carotid artery wall thickness, decreased heart rate variability) that are detectable before they manifest as disease such as diabetes and myocardial infarction.

To date, over 400 police officers have participated in the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study. The clinical examination includes a series of questionnaires, which measure demographic, lifestyle, and psychological factors (e.g., depression, post-traumatic stress), DEXA measurements to record bone density and body composition, ultrasounds of the brachial and carotid arteries, 18 salivary cortisol samples throughout the day and in response to a series of challenges, and blood samples. Upon completion of the clinical exam, officers are given an actigraph, a small electronic device that resembles a wrist watch, to wear over the next 15 days that measures the quantity and quality of sleep throughout their typical police shift cycle.

In addition to this effort, NIOSH and the National Institute of Justice within the U.S. Department of Justice have extended the BCOPS Study by measuring police officer fatigue and the impact of fatigue on officer health and performance. A unique feature of this study is the utilization of both objective sleep quality measures (obtained by the actigraph) and daily work history records which date back to 1960. These measures will allow researchers to assess the effects of shift work and extended work hours on officer stress and fatigue, and examine the effects of work-related stress and fatigue on cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk.

While there are many unique features of this study, the partnership that exists between the UB Principal Investigator Dr. John Violanti and the Buffalo Police Department Administration and Union has greatly contributed to its success. Recognizing the tremendous value the study findings could have on police officer safety and health, these groups have worked closely together to increase visibility of the studies and encourage the officers to participate. Additionally, as a retired New York state trooper, Dr. Violanti brings unique insight and maintains a sense of credibility among the officers.

Another feature of our research has been the success of two previous cross-sectional pilot studies involving a smaller number of Buffalo police officers. Findings include the following:

  • Female officers had higher mean Impact of Events (a measure of post-traumatic stress symptoms) and CES-D (a measure of depressive symptoms) scores than male officers.
  • Officers with higher post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms had a nearly two-fold reduction in brachial artery flow-mediated dilation, indicating greater impairment of endothelial function (physiologic dysfunction of the normal biochemical processes carried out by the cells which line the inner surface of blood vessels) than officers with fewer PTSD symptoms.
  • Officers with moderate or severe PTSD symptoms had higher mean awakening cortisol values compared with those who had less severe PTSD symptoms.
  • Officers with severe PTSD had a three-fold higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome than those reporting the fewest PTSD symptoms. This association was attenuated slightly by covariate adjustment for age and education.
  • Additional findings include associations of negative life events with depressive symptoms (Hartley et al.), night shift work with short sleep duration and snoring (Charles et al.), and a series of statistical applications for optimizing the measurement and analysis of study exposures or outcomes (Andrew et al., Fekedulegn et al., Slaven et al.).

Currently, we are continuing to examine police officers as part of our study of the entire Buffalo Police Department. We look forward to sharing our results with you in the future. The complete results of this research may be applicable not only to police officers but to other first responders who also consistently place their safety and health on the line. Additionally, the information gained from this research may increase understanding of how stress in all workplaces might lead to adverse health outcomes.

We are interested in hearing from police officers, police administration, police unions, law enforcement planners, other emergency responders, and investigators focused in this area of research. Your input will be valuable in the design of future studies in this area.

  • What are the key stressors involved with police work?
  • How should NIOSH share our future results with law enforcement agencies throughout the country (e.g. workshops, print media, Web sites)?
  • What types of interventions would be feasible in the future to 1) decrease work-related stress and 2) improve cardiovascular health among police officers?

Thank you for your assistance,

Tara A. Hartley, MPA, MPH, Cecil M. Burchfiel, PhD, MPH and John M. Violanti, PhD

Ms. Hartley is an Epidemiologist in the Biostatistics and Epidemiology Branch, and Dr. Burchfiel is the Project Officer and the Chief of the Biostatistics and Epidemiology Branch. They are located at the NIOSH Health Effects Laboratory Division, Morgantown, WV. Dr. Violanti is the Principal Investigator and is an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health and Health Professions at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. June 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm ET  -   Name withheld because of a concern for privacy issues

    I think this study/research is long overdue. Being married to a Police Officer and coming from a family of them, I feel qualified as a first-hand observer to comment… However, I have not seen nor heard the statistics on suicide among Police Officers in my area, but the stress levels are and have been exceedingly high. My husband, for example, has over 30 years on the “Force” – he has had 3 Heart Caths in the past 5 years; a 30% blockage was discovered… he has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, depression, hypertension, acid reflux in abundance, and does not know how to relax.

    He almost died from a major arterial bleed and has now been diagnosed with Macroglobulinanemia. Being in the medical profession, I’m sure you are aware that this disease is a very rare bone marrow cancer that is not cureable, but is treatable. How’s that to add to my husband’s stress? He also has neuropathy in his feet and hands – more so in his feet. He is now on desk duty. Thank God for that! Because of his chosen profession, my husband deals with everything the best he can. He’s quite aware and does attempt to “debrief” before coming home. Even so, quarreling in our home is a given on a daily basis. Although he’s never thought of or attempted to become physically abusive to me or anyone else, he does fly off the handle and punch a wall, door, whatever else standing in his path.

    He needs an outlet for his stress – as I’m sure, the other Officers do…

    I would strongly recommend mandorizing self-help courses that would involve something like meditation or yoga. I’ve seen and heard about wonderful outcomes from stressful subjects who have and are participating in the like. These men and women are our lifelines in today’s society of gangs, murderers, drug addicts, rapist, molestors, theives, etc… They protect us with their lives – no wonder they’re so stressed! And to top it off, they are severely underpaid. I can’t help but think of why we are paying sports figures, actors, muscians, et al, astronomical figures just to play something they enjoy? I don’t see any of them putting their lives on the line for someone they don’t know… Nonetheless, it’s about time for aiding and assisting our men and women in blue… God Bless you all for your caring, compassion, and professionalism in providing these studies/research for the betterment of our lifelines.

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  2. June 30, 2008 at 9:36 pm ET  -   Daniel L. Cameron

    I am a retired California Highway Patrol officer and am currently being treated by a LMFC for anxiety and PTSD. Most of the medical problems listed above seem to apply to me. I suffer from sleep apnea/snoring, hypertension, excessive weight with weight loss being very difficult, even with exercise and diet. I was borderline diabetic at one point, but am OK now.

    I will show this page to my counselor as he may find it interesting and may contact you.

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  3. June 30, 2008 at 10:08 pm ET  -   Andrew O'Hara

    1. We believe the greatest stressors on a police officer are of the “cumulative” kind. In looking at 48 police suicides in the United States thus far during 2008, we see that the majority have eluded the “suicide prevention radar.” Traditional belief (and current prevention programs) holds that those in greatest danger of suicide are those who are involved in catastrophic trauma, such as shootings, multiple-death accidents, loss of a child, etc. We are noting the contrary, based on this year’s experience that suicides are generally unexpected and/or no precipitating event is identified (“It was an absolute surprise”). In only one case this year was the officer identified as a suicide risk prior to the event. Of the 48 suicides, 10 were under a variety of investigations from major to minor, several had histories of suicides within relationships, family or otherwise, or no direct precipitating event was given.

    2. We are highly supportive of NIOSH sharing this important data in published form, as well as making it available on the internet through any means available. We would like to see the information disseminated throughout the law enforcement community through any other means deemed practicable.

    3. We are firmly convinced that one of the greatest interventions is a concept we are trying to promote of “inoculation,” through which we begin at the police academy level and, through workshops and lecture, embed a willingness among new officers to voluntarily visit a mental health specialist/therapist a minimum of once per year for a “mental health checkup,” much as they do for their teeth or their physical health. By continued encouragement, we believe this preventive strategy will prove instrumental in making the officer “self-aware” and open to healthy emotional coping strategies, as well as healthy lifestyles (cardiovascular). While the permanent, long-term results are expected by beginning at the academy level, this same training can be given to incumbent officers as well.

    We commend you on this exciting, far-reaching study.

    Badge of Life, Psychological Survival for Police Officers

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  4. July 1, 2008 at 11:13 pm ET  -   jack

    According to me topic is related to stress of the police on the public and the public will be scared of the police every time. This will happen when the public will get scared of police and they will occupy the place in the publics hearts like fear.

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  5. July 2, 2008 at 10:26 am ET  -   Name withheld because of a concern for privacy issues

    I commend your work. I think looking at the cummulative outcome of work stress on an Officer’s body is a great idea. This could help Officer’s realize just how much stress they are placing their body under and maybe do a better job taking care of themselves over their career. I am a Police Officer and so is my husband. He is on high blood pressure medication. In the last two months we have had two suicides on our department. One of our Lieutenants who took perfect care of his body as far as eating and working out, just had bypass surgery because he had an 80% blockage in his heart.

    I think if Officer’s realized that eating right and exercise alone is not enough to sustain a healthy lifestye, but realized that they must also care for their psychological well-being we would become much healthier as a culture.

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  6. July 2, 2008 at 11:15 am ET  -   Jon

    I am completing doctoral studies on police stress. My dissertation focuses on the impact organizational stressors have on police performance. Although there is a wealth of literature on the “nature” of policing as a source of stress, there is an equally impressive body of research on how the organization itself creates stress, consequently lowering performance. You would be surprised to know that many, many police officers find the organization creates more stress than the job itself. In fact, during one study (Amaranto, E., Steinberg, J., Castellano, C. and Mitchell, R. (2003). Police stress interventions. Brief Treatment and Crisis Interventions, Vol.3, No. 1:47-53. Specifically, see page 52 for the list of stressors officers identify) that was examining the nature of the job as a source of stress, participants actually named “job context” not “job content” stressors as the source of the stress. This suggests that while researchers believe that the job itself should be the focus of continued study (And rightfully sothe job is demanding), the officers believe it is the organization that creates most of their stress. This implies the need to improve the organization through various reforms: Management styles, design and policy, among the many.

    I am a retired police captain from Newark, NJ. I retired in 2005 after 20 years to pursue my doctoral degree. I would be happy to share my research and findings with the CDC/NIOSH when they are complete…in just a few months. I would also be willing to share my methodology and discuss some of the literature with NIOSH now.

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  7. July 8, 2008 at 7:20 am ET  -   Ed Sieczka

    What are the key stressors involved in police work?

    Answer: Management

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  8. July 9, 2008 at 1:59 pm ET  -   Frank

    Here is some information about Police Stresses

    ◦[brief-treatment.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/3/1/47.pdf]
    ◦[realpolice.net/police-stress-indicators.shtml]
    ◦[ptsdpolice.com/]
    So after you take a Look at this website Please come back and apologias for what you comment!

    Link to this comment

  9. July 11, 2008 at 11:19 am ET  -   Mary Blanchard

    As an Occupational Nurse at a prison,I would be very interested if the findings of the study can be generalized to correctional officers. Certainly they have many of the same stressors and as a result negative health outcomes.

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  10. August 4, 2008 at 2:53 am ET  -   Gary Jensen

    In 1977, I as an officer in the Minneapolis Police Department assisted Dr. Peter Maynard and Nancy Maynard of the University of Rhode Island. Not being able to make inroads into any police department because of its closed society at the time, I was approached by Ms. Maynard after class at the U. of Minnesota. I was subsequently able to convince the administration at that time that a study was needed, pointing out to the chief the issues and problems that officers in the department were having. There were several articles published from this study, on not only police officer stress but also the stress the job placed on police families. Here is one of the sites [http://www.jstor.org/pss/584464]

    The biggest stressors were the administration. The study brought about big changes in the department once the study was published. Rotating shifts were a big issue and the cause of much of the police stress within the family and the officer, working conditions, and the body not being able to adapt. Before one of the articles in 1979 were published, I was shot in a domestic dispute between two sisters. I was working the 11pm to 7 am shift, and just returned from day shift. My family suffered extreme stress over the incident, and subsequent disability. I became an expert on police stress.

    Unfortunately, for me I suffered severe femoral nerve and back injury, which subsequently led to divorce. I went through 18 operations, I became the department’s community educator, community relations, and public relations officer, and retired after I had 20 years, I have been retired 17 years this month. I went on to get my masters degree, and become a teacher. I have entered law school and want to practice international law.

    Changes brought about because of the study, no more rotating shifts, an officer from the department was trained and became the substance abuse officer, Officer and family assistance officer. This office was away from any of the departments offices, and referrals were given to health professionals. The program ran on confidentially. The program was also accessible to officers families. Officers were no longer able to drink and carry weapons, nor did they have to carry one off duty, which was requirement before. The health issues from police job stress remain with most officers until they draw they draw their last breath. Much of the officers stress is brought about by not being able to effectively communicate with others, namely their significant other, more likely than not trying to shield them from some of the gruesome events encountered.

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  11. August 20, 2008 at 9:53 am ET  -   John Brendon

    Through NIOSH science blog we can get the information about the BPD police of new york committing suicide due to the mental tensions on their daily work.

    Link to this comment

  12. August 23, 2008 at 11:58 am ET  -   ABDUL INUSA IDRISSA, C.O.O. HTWORKSAFE OH&S CONSULTANTS

    We in Nigeria are keenly interested in the outcome of your research. Kindly keep us posted on your findings. Best of regards.

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  13. September 7, 2008 at 8:37 am ET  -   M. - Australia

    I have been a police officer in South Australia for over 14 years now. Since the later part of 2007 & early 2008 I was suffering bad depression, anxiety and poor quality sleep (nightmares/terrors) Luckily for me, my local doctor was ex-military and quickly picked up on my symptons suggesting I may be suffering from PTSS. I have been seeing an excellent psychologist for the past six months now (not attached to the police force) who has provided me with fantastic help. The hardest thing was to acknowledge their was a problem and to ask for help. I could see myself heading down the path of many fellow officers and losing my family if I didn’t get help when I did. When writing a list of all the terrible things I have seen and clearly remember, it was the numerous fatal car crashes that I have seen that seem to be a major contributing factor of my PTSS.

    I have been searching the net for any related web sites and I’m glad I have found this one. I am not taking any medication to assist with my treatment and have found merely having an hour to myself (after work) to exercise/walk away from anyone else & taking herbal supplements (st. johns wort & valerian) have helped to calm me down & get a good nights sleep.

    I am very keen to see the results of your study as more should be done. I never thought anything like this would happen to me and out of the blue it did. To all members out there not feeling quite right, please go and see your local doctor and have a chat. It was the best thing I have ever done. I have been able to continue working on patrols throughout this difficult period, by getting the right help.

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  14. September 18, 2008 at 2:18 am ET  -   Marsha Stril

    Great information! Normalizing emotional response and feelings is so important. I’d like to see more articles like this.

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  15. September 30, 2008 at 5:38 pm ET  -   Syl Murphy

    I have been a police officer for 36 years; been involved in numerous investigations into murders; fatal traffic accidents, suicides, domestic violence, violent crime etc; I commend your excellent study; A doctor friend recommended I view it today; I see a number of problems which prevent police officers, especially male officers from seeking help for stress related issues; (1) The MACHO image (2) lack of support from management especially senior management, (3) lack of structured support services and trained personnel. Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can further assist. Keep up good work.

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  16. October 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm ET  -   VM

    I am currently working on my Doctorate of Nursing Practice in the area of Forensics, and I’ve discovered that Law Enforcement Officers are the forgotten “victims” of post traumatic stress. I’ve been married to one for the past three years and have learned more about how the management system often has a negative impression about officers seeking any kind of assistance for anixety or depression. I agree with the possibility of incorporating stress reduction methods in the academy to help combat this problem along with yearly emotional checkups. I believe this would greatly decrease the amount of alcoholism and other harmful behaviour patterns often seen in this population.

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  17. October 21, 2008 at 11:25 am ET  -   Steve

    I am very glad to read of the study being conducted. To go a long with that study, how about looking into how the stress hormones play a role in cancers as well?

    I don’t believe upper police management nor their political masters really want this or any similar studies results published. The main reason is they would have to accept some level of responsibility or “liability”. If as others have said and is well documented, that “Internal Stressors” are the main source of stress related health issues to include officer suicide, then they would have to acknowledge that and assume their rightfully responsibility. That would cost them money in medical disabilities, and they don’t want that. It is kind of like the pink elephant in the room. We all know it is there, but we are afraid to talk about it.

    To tie this up, something that I have put some thought into recently, that would “take the liability” away from management, and “remove” the stigma from the officer for needing a break from ALL POLICE RELATED WORK to include OFF DUTY POLICE JOBS, would be at all five year marks, every officer is required to take a paid two to three month sabbatical, that doesn’t count against their leave balances. (This would be for the ranks of sergeant and below.) They are not allowed to work any “police” related outside employment. This in theory should provide them the time away from the stressors to cleanse their body of the toxins. I would suggest that prior to their leave time, they receive the tests similar to this study or others, and then the same tests a week or two prior to their return. I believe the results would be astounding!

    Some would argue the cost is too high! I argue the cost is already too high!! For my agency, it costs in the area of $70,000 to $90,000.00 to recruit and train one officer to the point they are off of probation. An extremely rough return on investment would be, we need 8 to 10 years of work out of them for ROI. That doesn’t count any additional specialized training we invest in them, during that period. What is the cost for a career of substandard police “service” to the public? What is the cost to society when those who swore an oath to uphold the law, become corrupt and tarnish the community, agency, profession and their families? What is the cost in human life when officers feel they have no where else to turn and they kill themselves at a rate some have said between 2 and 3 or as high as 7 to 8 times that are killed in the line of duty? I know others will argue the stats don’t show that. How about the officers whose deaths are classified as “accidental”, because if it were suicide, their family wouldn’t receive any insurance money? I believe the cost for the “time out” is cheap!!! Those who serve and their families are better served and equally important the public is better served.

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  18. October 29, 2008 at 7:59 pm ET  -   Ralph Portier

    I am an Ohio Police Officer and was given the article to read. This is great! I have created a Suicide Awareness program called Dying In Blue which is presented as an advanced training course at the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy. The idea was to begin to address early in the officers career that the day to day stressors we live with can reak havock in an officers life and their families. This includes suicide. Throughout Ohio, as I spend time with CIT units, officers and other interested parties, we found that in most all cases agency adminstrators fail to recognize or are not willing to discuss potential suicidal officers, let alone officers who are continually burned out by way of the common stressors (finance, relationships and chemical abuse).

    We must educate every public safety officer that the risk of suicide is high and it WILL happen if we do not seek professional counseling. We must educate command staff that overworked officers, micromanaged officers, and highly disciplined officers are headed for trouble if intervention is not done.

    Let’s continue to break the ice and speak openly of stress, burn out and suicide.

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  19. March 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm ET  -   Anonymous

    Police officers are suffering from stress, and one result is lessened service to the community. All police stress needs to be defined and combatted, not just a few obvious ones. The task is difficult, but the rewards for doing it surpass the effort.

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  20. May 26, 2009 at 7:53 pm ET  -   In my prime

    I am 39.7 years old, I have over ten years on the job SoCal P.O. It’s true, I get more tension & stress from the Management @ my Dept, THAN I DO DEALING WITH GANG MEMBERS in the streets. At least you know where you stand with the gang members. Hey brothers, i have a question for you…hows your lower back on your first day off?. and your digestion when your wear that vest? as for you people with $1000.00 vests your exempt from this question. As for me atfer 20+years of civil service I have high blood pressure/hypertension,(controlled with meds)unk stress disorder( controlled by will power, diet, exercise and rest)Cervical disc herniation(neck) and numeruos failed relationships. Never married/no children involved thankfully. the last thing I’ll say is, nobody understands US but US.

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  21. May 29, 2009 at 8:24 pm ET  -   Andy O'Hara

    “In my Prime”- I have some good information for you if you would contact me through our BadgeOfLife.com.

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  22. June 19, 2009 at 4:43 pm ET  -   Dr. Ellen Marshall

    In 2003 I completed my dissertation on “Cumulative Career Traumatic Stress” in Law Enforcement. I am a 12 yr police veteran; now a college professor. I’ve since published articles on this topic. The latest can be found in: Marshall, E.K. (2007). Cumulative career traumatic stress: A pilot study of traumatic stress in law enforcement. In L. Territo & J.D. Sewell (Eds.), Stress management in law enforcement. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press

    Addressing stress, cumulative stress, and traumatic stress is long overdue in law enforcement.

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  23. June 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm ET  -   Walter Yeomans

    I am being treated by my VA Clinic in Daytona Beach for PTSD. This was not from the military but from 24 years of Law Enforcement, with my primary duty being a Traffic Homicide Investigator. The management of Police Officers from Police Chiefs that have spent years behind the desk or hired by city managers that want a puppet, and try to lower budgets, by getting rid of senior officers, by any means possible, which is easy if you have no feelings to the officers or their families.This type of management creates more stress in addition to that which happens on the streets. More studies need to be made to help officers on the street.

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  24. August 10, 2009 at 6:06 pm ET  -   Charles McCallister

    I am in agreement here as while I work on [website name removed] from the comfort of my home, these guys are out performing a service to society with all their hearts (most of them) and dealing with unbelievably high amounts of stress as a result.

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  25. September 21, 2009 at 11:03 pm ET  -   Robert R

    I took criminology in College and graduated with honors. I didnt work long in the police field because the subculture that went with it was very stressful. My hats off to the women and men of the police force! You have always been my heroes! I salute you

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  26. November 29, 2009 at 2:34 pm ET  -   Terrance

    I believe this is a great study and as a relative of a law enforcement official I would like to know the correlation of stress and diabetes or blood sugar levels on law enforcment officials.

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    • AUTHOR COMMENT December 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm ET  -   Cecil Burchfiel

      Although we have not yet specifically addressed whether stress is associated with diabetes or blood sugar levels, we have found preliminary evidence (based on a small pilot sample of about 100 randomly selected officers) that certain indicators of stress such as post-traumatic stress disorders and depressive symptoms are associated with the metabolic syndrome (having 3 or more of 5 components that include elevated blood sugar level, high blood pressure, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, and elevated waist girth). There is evidence in the scientific literature that stress may lead to increased accumulation of internal fat and other metabolic consequences. We plan to examine this particular research question in future analyses that will be based on approximately 460 police officers beginning next year.

      We appreciate the support and interest expressed in this research.

      Link to this comment

  27. December 2, 2009 at 9:34 pm ET  -   Ray Newman

    Any recent studies available related to unique stressors encountered by police officers working in a rural environment?

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    • AUTHOR COMMENT December 15, 2009 at 8:12 am ET  -   John Violanti

      There are some studies on small and rural police departments in the literature. A few are listed below. Additional articles can be found by searching the criminal justice journals.

      Scott, Yolanda M. Stress among Rural and Small-Town Patrol Officers: A Survey of Pennsylvania Municipal Agencies. Police Quarterly, Jun 2004; vol. 7: pp. 237 – 261.

      Morash, Merry, Robin Haarr, and Dae-Hoon Kwak. Multilevel Influences on Police Stress. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, Feb 2006; vol. 22: pp. 26 – 43.

      D’Andrea, Livia M., Paul C. Abney, Richard Swinney, and James R. Ganyon. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) in Rural Communities. Traumatology, Sep 2004; vol. 10: pp. 179 – 187.

      Alkus, Stephen and Christine Padesky. Special Problems of Police Officers: Stress-Related Issues and Interventions. The Counseling Psychologist, Jun 1983; vol. 11: pp. 55 – 64.

      Bartol, Curt R., George T. Bergen, Julie Seager Volckens, and Kathleen M. Knoras. Women in Small-Town Policing: Job Performance and Stress. Criminal Justice and Behavior, Sep 1992; vol. 19: pp. 240 – 259.

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  28. February 21, 2010 at 9:10 pm ET  -   Thomas Hanover

    One of the most difficult areas with this problem is getting police officers to seek help. In Erie County New York we have instituted a police peer contact helpline to assist officers and their familes in times of stress. Dr Violanti is from our area and we have worked with him to help identify ways to get this information out to police officers. As a current licensed social worker and also a retired police offcier with over thirty three years of service I find the dialogue here interesting and informative. Any thoughts or comments that can assist us in getting this message out is greatly appreciated.

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  29. March 2, 2010 at 12:01 pm ET  -   Sarah Miller

    I used to work in a garment factory and the stress level was very high for me and I gained 20 kgs.

    Some people can handle stress better than others. Yoga helped me out and I am now losing weight.

    Cheers,
    Sarah

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  30. April 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm ET  -   Richard Goerling

    Thanks to all for the comments, particularly for those willing to be ‘real’ and share their suffering. I’m a police lieutenant in Oregon, and adjunct faculty at a local college. I stumbled across this blog in some last minute preparation for a presentation dialogue I’m involved in tomorrow morning at a conference with the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness (CFM). I’m working with colleagues across the nation to integrate concepts of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) into LE culture. This follows from work that key doctors have been doing with the U.S. Department of Defense (See- Stanley, Elizabeth A. and Amishi P. Jha. Mind Fitness and Metal Armor: Enhancing Performance and Building Warrior Resilience. Joint Force Quarterly, No. 55 (October 2009)). Introducing Mindfulness into LE culture is a bold move, yet one that offers a path toward holistic wellness for our warriors. This training offers proactive (rarely have we offered our people anything but reactive resources) techniques that enhance resilience for chronic and traumatic stress…as well as other benefits. I believe we need a cultural change that centers around holistic wellness (see- Samuel Feemster. Duty of Care. FBI LE Bulletin. January 2009). From this foundation we can begin to see healing of our, often undisclosed, suffering and reconnect with our sense of self and duty. Warmest Regards to all. Be Well. -Richard

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  31. June 3, 2010 at 3:18 am ET  -   Simon

    As an ex-Australian police officer, The biggest source of police stress for me was management and culture. Very few incidents on the street were a cause of stress. I have worked in a number of other places before joining the police and I have to say that the police force is about 100 years behind the rest of society. The mangement centers around a culture of authoritarianism and mistrust. I think this behaviour is replicated in lower ranks. The way officers treat each other is no better. I felt like I was back in high school.

    I don’t understand that if it costs so much time and money to train a police officer, why management are continually abusive to new recruits. If someone today asked me if they should join the police force, I would tell them that it is definitely not worth the cost to your physical and mental health. You will lead a much happier life doing something else.

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  32. July 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm ET  -   Bill Newton

    I am the chief of a small police agency in Ca. I have had one sergeant retire on stress and now have a young officer who is out, pending a consult with a Dr. regarding his stress issues. My problem is that the city’s HR dir and City Mgr both refuse to acknowledge that PTSD is a real issue among cops. I believe that all they are driven by is the almighty dollar and don’t give a s$%t about the emotional wreckage. I know better and am trying to help both of them, but need some recent studies etc. Can anyone refer me to some places to look. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks sisters and brothers.

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  33. September 6, 2010 at 12:18 am ET  -   withheld

    QUOTE FROM BILL NEWTON:
    “…need some recent studies etc. Can anyone refer me to some places to look. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks sisters and brothers.”

    Hi Bill,
    My heart goes out to you.

    This article is written by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, and is specifically written to address: “The Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on the Officer and the Family.” [http://www.aaets.org/article132.htm]

    Also, here’s a list from Google of scholarly works related to police officers and PTSD. [http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=scientific+study+ptsd+in+police+officers&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart]

    Hopefully this can can help you.

    QUOTE:
    “Officers with higher post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms had a nearly two-fold reduction in brachial artery flow-mediated dilation, indicating greater impairment of endothelial function (physiologic dysfunction of the normal biochemical processes carried out by the cells which line the inner surface of blood vessels) than officers with fewer PTSD symptoms.”

    I’m a student, and I am familiar with the BART protocol for brachial artery reactivity testing and endothelial function, and intimal medial thickening studies of carotid arteries as these relate to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

    We truly are only now learning of the debilitating impact of prolonged anxiety and stress, and most importantly, the life-long affects of chronic, repetitive exposure to stress.

    I’m not a member of this particular cohort, but do have direct experience in witnessing the effects of PTSD, among other anxiety disorders. One close friend’s accounting of her struggles with social phobia [http://anxietyheartattack.com/social-phobia-treatment] involved a combination of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy and desensitization, with some success.

    Although it’s not too surprising to learn that PTSD (among other chronic-stress related disorders) can be found in any first-responder cohort, it is disconcerting to learn of these atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease indicator results in persons with PTSD.

    It would seem that any scientific investigation into professional stress-related disease could only benefit this, and any other profession with similar demands and exposures.

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  34. September 22, 2010 at 10:16 am ET  -   Tom Taylor

    “It would seem that any scientific investigation into professional stress-related disease could only benefit this, and any other profession with similar demands and exposures.”

    I agree with the above statement. It is definately a major issue that is affecting us in todays society.

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  35. October 11, 2010 at 5:28 pm ET  -   Pete Soto

    Police Culture must also be taken into consideration in any type of research. The subculture has a high impact on behavior and stress

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  36. November 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm ET  -   ehi

    i found your site very helpful, thanks. in my country nigeria, police are more or less regarded as the enemy. i have been an advocate of sorts saying the police deserve a break. it’s not an easy job and i certainly don’t envy them. may God protect all policemen everywhere.

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  37. January 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm ET  -   Randy

    I just read every post. The overwhelming response was that an officer’s administration is typically the biggest stressor in his/her career. I would like to see some hard stats on this topic…can anybody help?

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  38. March 10, 2011 at 1:36 am ET  -   Linda D. Rozar

    Perhaps the Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Vol 25, Number 2 (Feb 2011) pages 232-238 article, “Emotional Response May Predict how the Body Responds to Stress” should be used to screen folks for police work, correctional officer work, or as a correctional teacher to protect those of us who are biologically more vulnerable to stressors. If I had read that article 23 years ago, I wouldn’t have become a correctional teacher who has now had 6 heart attacks! Also the “PTSD and PACAP” article by Christipher Badcock in psychologytoday.com/blog may be of interest to you.

    I am amazed that there has not been a single study done about stress in correctional teachers… I have found numerous articles about stress in regular teachers and stress in correctional officers, but no article about the teachers who worked like I did at Old Folsom State Prison & Pelican Bay State Prison.

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  39. July 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm ET  -   Cop /w Cop Wife w/ PTSD

    I am no expert, but I have spent 31 years in this job. I have seen the suffering this job leaves in its’ wake. Some from what we see and do. Some from what is done to us. My wife has been on the job for nearly 25 years.

    She now suffers from depression and anxiety and recently went off the job for an extended period, she will most likely not be back. It is our belief that she qualifies for a disability pension, based on the health related issues brought on by the job, i.e. the depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, weight loss, etc. Classic PTSD. Watching the effect this disorder has on her is now beginning to take it’s toll on me. I think what I find most troubling is the realization that I am watching her career end in a way she doesn’t deserve. She has always been an incredible police officer both as a a street officer and a Detective. It breaks my heart to see her being beaten up by the job like this. I know what she has been through, because I was there for most of it. Same calls, same cases…just different levels of involvement. As a Patrol Sergeant I could clear the scene and go about my business as a Detective she got to see the nasty details. That stuff takes a toll. She deserves to be happy again. I want to thank the folks who have put his blog together. The references I found here are going to help me , help her Docs to help her.

    Oh, and to Chief Newton; Brother, your troops should be glad to have you.

    They don’t know how lucky they are. God Bless you Sir!

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  40. July 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm ET  -   Albert Holmes

    Being a physical therapy marketing professional and a physical therapist, I have a handful of police officers that seek massage service to relieve stress.

    Stress really manifests in our body and reflects in how we act. I strongly suggest that police officers should do regular stress relieving activities.

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  41. October 8, 2011 at 9:37 pm ET  -   Earl Riggins

    This is very good article page for research study. I am conducting my Dissertation on police stress and find some of this information very interesting. The NIOSH is doing a great job of getting information out and I hope a PDF article is posted the results of this information.

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  42. March 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm ET  -   Ben Free

    Stress can certainly lead to many health problems. A healthy lifestyle, plenty of exercise and a good “stress diet” can help.
    best wishes Ben

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  43. June 22, 2012 at 9:57 pm ET  -   bheem

    I heard people like war veterans, rape victims suffer from PTSD symptoms. But why do police get these PTSD symptoms? Because all of them might not come across terror and traumatic events….. By the way the study is really good and show the level of mental stress among the officers.

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  44. September 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm ET  -   Name Omitted

    I have been a police officer for 23 years. Prior to this, I was a military police officer for four years. Prior to that, I was a volunteer fireman living at a fire station beginning at age 16. As the years have progressed, I have seen co-workers quit, get fired for doing stupid things, get arrested for doing criminal things, kill themselves, kill the ones they supposedly love, and get killed in the line of duty. I have seen officers killed in accidents and I have seen officers murdered while performing their jobs. Most recently, four of my beloved co-workers were murdered at the same time in a coffee shop in 2009 by a gun wielding suspect bent on killing cops. I was there at the scene. Escorted their slain bodies to the ME’s office. Served as a pall bearer in their funeral. And now, on occasion stop by their graves to say hello. In my 23 years, I have been in uniformed patrol, served on motors, served on SWAT, served as a K-9 handler, served as a fatal crash investigator, and served as an undercover taks force detective. I am now over 45 years old and am seeing some of the symptomatic results of the stress involved in this job in myself. It’s an accumulation. Doesn’t go away or subside. It just is. I consider myself to be 30 pounds overweight and in poor cardiovascular shape. I’m a big guy, tall and muscular, so I have come to rely on my appearance, ability to communicate with people, and two minute ability to win the fight. I am constantly working to manage my weight, with diet, but rarely excercise. I find that after a 10-18 hour work day, I am exhausted mentally and physically and do not have ANY energy for the gym anymore. Working undercover has truly produced the most stress I have ever experienced in my career. I manage stress throughout the day well and can respond to the needs of the job when on duty. But, it catches up to me later when I am off. Stress manifests in me as poor sleep, night terrors (nightmares), and what I think is a combination of PTSD symptoms and depression. I see it in myself and have been open with my immediate family about it – my wife supports me. I believe my department supports me as well. I am lucky in that respect. I have a great command staff whom I believe genuinely care. I have sought help from professionals including medical doctors and counselors and it has helped some. Still, the results of the stress are there. I plan on working until I am at least 55 years old because I do love this job. Some may say they are addicted to the adrenaline and excitement, the challenges of wearing a uniform. I am addicted to the service I am able to provide to the community. I see this as a noble thing and an honorable cause. Some would say there is no job worth sacrificing your life for. But we in this profession strap that notion on every day we come to work and know that the next shift could be the last. Having said that, I don’t live in fear. I am determined to win. Win at everything I do. Win my cases. Put the bad guys in jail. Win the fight. And, if necessary, take another person’s life away from them in order to save my own or someone else’s. I think my stress comes directly from this task I have given myself. To win. It creates a hypervigilant mind set. And, after 10-18 hours of hypervigilence and fighting to win, it creates exhaustion. Some say the answer is excercise. I know quite a few who think it is alcohol. Some think it is sex and are on their 4th and 5th marriage. Some say it is religion and God that gets them through. I say I don’t know. I haven’t found the magic solution yet. But I am still here, still trying, and will not give up. I knew this would be a tuff job when I signed up as a young man. But I consider it to be part of my personal sacrifice for the profession. Sometimes the best medicine is a good friend and Lord knows we have few of those in this line of work. My two cents. Thanks for letting us speak.

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  45. December 21, 2013 at 9:50 pm ET  -   yomi

    Officers risk their lives daily to serve and protect. We need more funding to help understanding and reduce the stress and mental wear that come from their services.

    Yomi.

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  46. January 4, 2014 at 11:56 am ET  -   Jim Perlin

    Excellent insight on the subject. Please continue posting good article. Thank you

    Link to this comment

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