Police and Stress

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

Posted on by Tara A. Hartley, MPA, MPH, Cecil M. Burchfiel, PhD, MPH and John M. Violanti, PhDTags ,

62 comments on “Police and Stress”

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    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.

    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.

    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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Here is some information about Police Stresses

    So after you take a Look at this website Please come back and apologias for what you comment!

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

    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.

    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.


    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.

    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.

    “…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.

    “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.

    “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.

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

    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.

    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?

    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.

    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!

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

    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.


    I think many people don’t realize that even law enforcement officers who don’t see awful violence on a daily basis are accumulating stressors that cause an eventual overflow. All of the daily frustrations and feelings of helplessness caused by the abuse they see add up. Wives and children feel pretty helpless when their loved one is suddenly sobbing uncontrollably for no conceivable reason.

    Our department does a TERRIBLE job helping its officers and their families deal with this sort of stress. The familial support is nonexistent, and the trainings for officers are few and far between. It seems to me that regular counseling should be a requirement for anyone on the job, both for individual officers and for their families.

    My grandpa was a LA cop for over 25 years and I can tell you now, hes seen some stuff in his years. He suffered from Post traumatic stress disorder and still has some problems to this day but is slowly over coming it. I do feel like we don’t do enough to help our officers these days they really need to get that sorted.

    This information can make other people see how police officer have a stressful work, for me it’s a new information too. Thank you.

    I read about the findings but It neither surprised nor shook me in any way. The findings are not Causal explainations but phenonena arising in a tempporary linkage which doesn’t mean that it’s causative…

    I think many people don’t realize that even law enforcement officers who don’t see awful violence on a daily basis are accumulating stressors that cause an eventual overflow. All of the daily frustrations and feelings of helplessness caused by the abuse they see add up. Wives and children feel pretty helpless when their loved one is suddenly sobbing uncontrollably for no conceivable reason.

    To bheem [comment 41]: Try riding with a police officer for a week — see what they see on a daily basis. I’ll be you will change your outlook.

    I just happened to stumble into this study, as well as reading the BCOPS study results but I really wish I had seen it years ago. Over the last year I have undergone four heart surgeries, including open heart last year and now three separate cauterizations, which is what prompted me to look at what I have been doing wrong, causing all these problems.

    I wasn’t sure if I should even comment here since your study results were posted in 2008, when most of the other comments were posted but then realized the same problems discussed in the study and comments are current and it appears nothing has changed.

    Here we are eight years later, many agencies still have rotating shifts, allow their staff to stay on graveyard or in high stress assignments such as crimes against children, homicide or drug task forces for many years, despite studies that suggest the contrary.

    In my 30 years in law enforcement, like many others, I have seen the best and worse of humanity and been forced to do things in my job that just were not right, because of policy or “political correctness” Administrations continue to be one of the greatest stressor even today as it seems they are more concerned with doing things right instead of doing the right thing. I think most people who have their priorities straight know the difference between the two.

    If there is still any interest in continuing this study or updating it, I would be happy to participate. If not and others happen to read this post, please continue to do your own research on the subject. You and your family deserve the positive benefits of learning about stress and its affects on your family, health and humanity. Best of luck to you.

    I am currently fighting workercomp over stress caused TIA’s and a full stroke all of which were at work. 12 years as a Deputy Sheriff, I’m not over weight, I work out and run daily, great home life, I eat healthier than should be allowed and still job stress got me. I Did not have hypertension or diabetes prior to the stroke. I remember not having the adrenaline dump for about five years. We all just become numb to our jobs. When the strokes started I had just been hands on and was suddenly hit with an adrenaline dump worse than I can remember. I am currently looking for the medical proof, that stress in lawenforsement can cause strokes, to help my case.

    Thank you for posting to this blog. We are sorry you have experienced these health issues. We encourage you to consult with your physician who knows your medical history best to work with you on prevention of future health events. This NIOSH study of police officers examines population level associations between police stress and early health effects related to the cardiovascular system, and cannot make predictions about health outcomes for an individual. The study is also not large enough to focus on hard clinical outcomes, like stroke and heart attacks, which take a much larger sample size and many more years of follow-up time to assess. You may wish to review this scientific manuscript, which is a 2015 systematic review with meta-analysis by Booth and colleagues, which examines results from many studies with large samples and sufficiently long follow-up times to assess stroke outcomes. They reported that perceived stress, not specifically police stress, was independently associated with increased stroke risk.

    Booth J, Connelly L, Lawrence M, Chalmers C, Joice S, Becker C, Dougall N. Evidence of perceived psychosocial stress as a risk factor for stroke in adults: a meta-analysis. BMC Neurology 2015;15:233.

    Stress causes various disease.It is specially occure in police department.Thank you for sharing information about stress.

    I think this is the same for all the workers in public and private security. This is so common in my business sector. As private detective i have to say that we reach high stress levels in almost all our works.
    Some people can handle stress better than others. Meditation and relaxation helped me out to avoid health problems.

    I would recommend to create an environment of open communication that foster trusts, this in turn enables officer to speak about their issues and a counsellor listens to and acknowledges there feeling instead of ignoring them and propose them coping mechanism that helps them in overcoming stress and trauma.

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Page last reviewed: March 2, 2017
Page last updated: March 2, 2017