Policing is a taxing occupation. Researchers of University at Buffalo, through a decade of studying police officers, have found that those in the occupation are at risk for increased levels of destructive stress hormones, insomnia, high blood pressure, post-traumatic stress disorder, heart problems, and suicide. However, now the research team at UB is taking their study of the police population to a new level, focusing on how police work affects physical and mental health. The study, funded with $1.75 million from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), received additional funding ($750,000) from the National Institute of Justice to measure police fatigue and the impact of shift work. John M. Violanti, Ph.D., research associate professor in UB’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, commenting, said, “Policing is a psychologically stressful work environment filled with danger, high demands, ambiguity in work encounters, human misery and exposure to death… we anticipate that data from this research will lead to police-department-centered interventions to reduce the risk of disease in this stressful occupation.” The following is an excerpt of an article from Medical News Today that reviews the study:
John M. Violanti, Ph.D., research associate professor in UB’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, is principal researcher of the study, called the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study.
More than 400 police officers have participated in the study to date, with the researchers aiming for 500. The clinical examination involves questionnaires on lifestyle and psychological factors such as depression and PTSD, in addition to measures of bone density and body composition, ultrasounds of brachial and carotid arteries, salivary cortisol samples and blood samples. The officers also wear a small electronic device to measure the quantity and quality of sleep throughout a typical police shift cycle.
Results from Violanti’s pilot studies have shown, among other findings, that officers over age 40 had a higher 10-year risk of a coronary event compared to average national standards; 72 percent of female officers and 43 percent of male officers, had higher-than-recommended cholesterol levels; and police officers as a group had higher-than-average pulse rates and diastolic blood pressure.