BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The daily psychological stresses that police officers experience in their work put them at significantly higher risk than the general population for a host of long-term physical and mental health effects. That's the overall finding of a major scientific study of the Buffalo Police Department called Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) conducted over five years by a University at Buffalo researcher.
"This is one of the first police population-based studies to test the association between the stress of being a police officer and psychological and health outcomes," says John Violanti, PhD, professor of social and preventive medicine in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, and principal investigator on the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The research, which is in press this month in a special issue of the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, reveals connections between the daily stressors of police work and obesity, suicide, sleeplessness and cancer, as well as general health disparities between police officers and the general population.
The study was prompted by the assumption that the danger, high demands and exposure to human misery and death that police officers experience on the job contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health outcomes.
"We wanted to know, in addition to stress, what are other contributing factors that lead to cardiovascular disease in police?," says Violanti, a former New York State trooper.
The study found, for example, that shift work is a contributing factor to an increase in metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of symptoms that includes abdominal obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and stroke. Nearly half (46.9 percent) of officers in the BCOPS study worked a non-day shift compared to just 9 percent of U.S. workers.
"We found that as a group, offic
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