Criminal Justice and Behavior

http://cjb.sagepub.com/ Mental, Physical, and Behavioral Outcomes Associated With Perceived Work Stress in Police Officers
Robyn R.M. Gershon, Briana Barocas, Allison N. Canton, Xianbin Li and David Vlahov Criminal Justice and Behavior 2009 36: 275 DOI: 10.1177/0093854808330015 The online version of this article can be found at: http://cjb.sagepub.com/content/36/3/275

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police stress P erceived work stress has been defined as the degree to which workers “feel strain” associated with their jobs (Karacek & Theorell. Vol.1177/0093854808330015 © 2009 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology 275 Downloaded from cjb. CANTON Columbia University XIANBIN LI Johns Hopkins University DAVID VLAHOV New York Academy of Medicine This study estimates the effects of perceived work stress in police officers and determines the impact of coping on both perceived work stress and health. Mailman School of Public Health. as well as lacking in flexibility and control. The authors also thank the Project SHIELDS Advisory Board members for their advice on the project and the senior leadership of the Baltimore Police Department for their help and support in facilitating this research.072) completed detailed questionnaires. NY 10032. for their support and help on this study. Columbia University.. Exposure to critical incidents. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the funding agency. lack of cooperation among coworkers. Keywords: stress. our deep gratitude to the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department for their enthusiastic participation on this project. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Robyn R.MENTAL. The authors thank Ms. 1990). Officers who relied on negative or avoidant coping mechanisms reported both higher levels of perceived work stress and adverse health outcomes. e-mail: rg405@columbia. Finally.sagepub. law enforcement. coping. Mailman School of Public Health. Joseph Hurrell. and job dissatisfaction correlated significantly with perceived work stress. GERSHON Johns Hopkins University BRIANA BAROCAS New York University ALLISON N. Officers from a large. Dottie Woods and Mr. This work was supported by Grant 97-FS-VX-0001 from the National Institute of Justice. Interventions that address modifiable stressors and promote effective coping and resiliency will probably be most beneficial in minimizing police stress and associated outcomes. M. 2012 . 722 W. who generously provided advice on the study and manuscript. CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR. Columbia University. A special note of appreciation to Dr. including depression and intimate partner abuse. work stress. Gershon is now at the Department of Sociomedical Sciences. Gershon. Work that is both physically and emotionally demanding. This article was presented in poster form at National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health National Occupational Injury Research Symposium in October 2008. New York. New York. 168th St. March 2009 275-289 DOI: 10. Results have implications for improving stress-reducing efforts among police officers. M.edu.com at University of Bucharest on November 9. workplace discrimination. M. 3. PHYSICAL. Suite 1003. urban police department (N = 1. Gary McLhinney. has been characterized AUTHORS’ NOTE: Robyn R. 36 No. Work stress was significantly associated with adverse outcomes. AND BEHAVIORAL OUTCOMES ASSOCIATED WITH PERCEIVED WORK STRESS IN POLICE OFFICERS ROBYN R.

Franke. 1981. 2002. 1992. Violanti & Aron. Marshall.. Police stress has also been associated with maladaptive and antisocial behavior. 1995. Schultz. These include ineffective workplace communication. Moreover. Horn. 1990. & Hurrell. 1983).276 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR as particularly stressful (Grosch & Sauter. 2002. heavy workload. The effects of routine police stressors along with exposure to critical incidents or traumatic stressors may result in physiological. poor working conditions. Violanti. variable and intermittent work pace. research by Violanti (2004) on suicide ideation and alcohol use in law enforcement noted an increased risk among officers reporting both. response to or the threat of terrorism is viewed as an important police stressor (Dowling.e. & Howe. White males 25 to 54 years old) indicate that this is a misconception (Aamodt. 1997. Reilly & DiAngelo. 1996). Franke. Kirk. Loo. with many of these common in other types of jobs as well. 2002. 2003). 2005. 1994. Latach & Havlovic. & Byrne. & Brown. 2003. Rupp. 1976. 2007). 1994). such as cardiovascular disease and depression. 2012 . 1985). 1997. such as problem drinking and hyper-aggressiveness and violence. Murphy & Sauter. Violanti et al. & Schmuckler. 2005. The impact of these stressors may be exacerbated in some officers who may be especially vulnerable to stress. Violanti & Aron. & Shelly. Cox. & LePine. Nelson. psychological and physical problems in policing continue to grow at an alarming rate (Collins & Gibbs. 1990. Downloaded from cjb. are more specific to policing. Raiser. Police stressors have been well characterized. 2007).com at University of Bucharest on November 9. Podsakoff. workplace discrimination and/or harassment. Although suicide rates are commonly believed to be high in law enforcement. More recent research has assessed PTSD in police officers (Violanti et al. unremitting high levels of work stress are a concern because... 1997). 1997. Hurrell & Aristeguieta. Lin. 1974. 2006. Paton. both of which are prevalent in police populations (Brown & Campbell. such as those without supportive family or friends and those lacking the necessary coping skills for dealing with a stressful job (Dewe & Guest. rigid organizational structure. 2003. such as the threat of physical danger and potential exposure to disturbing. Quick. & Franke. Jermier. Violanti. Thompson. 1975. Gershon. Increasingly. Police stress is known to be associated with certain health problems. Violanti & Marshall. however. Genet. and/or behavioral problems (Everly & Smith. a number of negative outcomes at both the individual and organizational levels can result (Cropanzano. However. Ramsey. Gaines. 1997). Marshall. Other stressors. Kroes & Hurrell. Despite the growing awareness of stressrelated problems among police officers and ongoing efforts to address this issue. & McIntosh. 2003). even horrific events. careful analysis and comparison with comparable demographic groups (i. Violanti. Quick et al. 2008. Although certain levels of work stress are inevitable in almost any occupation. Moynihan. LePine. 1994). Paton. excessive overtime. & Li. Kroes. psychological. both on and off the job (Kohan & O’Connor. & Lewis. 1987. 1991. prior life experiences that result in unresolved personal and family issues may also predispose police officers to greater vulnerability in responding to conflicts (Kirschman. Reese & Scrivner. 1985). shift work. 2005.. as numerous empirical studies have shown. 2004. lack of opportunities for advancement.sagepub. Law enforcement has long been recognized as a high stress and high strain profession (Brown & Campbell. and frequent interaction with the general public (Brown & Campbell. 1999. Quick. 2006. Paton & Smith. 1994). & Howe. The death or injury of a fellow officer in the line of duty is known to be especially stressful for officers (Finn & Tomz. 1989. 1990. Collins & Gibbs. Jaffe. 1983). 1994. Violanti.

New recruits receive 9 months of training at the police academy.. Most sworn employees were of officer rank (76%).000 officers on payroll at the time of the study (19992000). such as hyper-aggression and violence.Gershon et al. Evaluate and Limit Department Stress) represented a collaborative effort among the Baltimore Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. Officers completed the questionnaires prior to going out on their shift. which provides law enforcement services to 700. Nearly 400 officers were not present at day or night roll call. attending to court Downloaded from cjb. with a range of less than 1 to 44 years on the force. Although only 15% of the force at the time was female. Of 1. police stress has both public safety and public health implications. though 37. Maryland. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of a wide range of police stressors on potential health outcomes while controlling for various coping strategies in a large sample of urban police officers.150 officers present at roll calls. more than two thirds (69%) of these women were also members of racial/ethnic minority groups. mi. can lead to public distrust and erosion of support for law enforcement agencies in general.5%) indicated that they were either married or with a long-term partner. / POLICE WORK STRESS 277 From the organizational perspective. with a mean age of 36 years (range = 20 to 66).5%) were officers. health care utilization. Respondents’ characteristics were generally similar to the force as a whole (data not shown).com at University of Bucharest on November 9. 1992). 2012 . minority personnel represented 39% of the workforce. The department serves nine different precincts and covers a total of nearly 81 sq.4% of the total police officer workforce) completed and returned questionnaires.7%). Most respondents (62. The average tenure on the force was nearly 12 years. and each year about 80 new recruits enter the training program.6%) and men (85.072 (93. and these individuals were reportedly on vacation. Thus. The department had just more than 3. METHOD PARTICIPANTS Project SHIELDS (the Study to Help Identify. negative outcomes associated with police stress can seriously undermine the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies through poor productivity. and high absenteeism. Officers were primarily White (61%) and male (85%). and lieutenants or greater rank (5%). Certain police stress–related problems. The majority of respondents (84. followed by sergeants (12%). there was no systematic bias attributed to shift.2% of the sample.000 residents of Baltimore. The majority of the respondents were White (64. SAMPLING STRATEGY Sample recruitment took place during roll call at each of the department’s nine districts as well as at three other major divisions. and 35. primarily urban and inner city.4% reported prior military service. excessive rates of turnover.8%) reported having at least some college education. agents (7%). difficulties in recruitment. and workers’ compensation costs (Tang & Hammontree. Overall. the Baltimore Police Department.sagepub. Study participants were recruited from the Baltimore Police Department.5% were reportedly supervisors. 71. 1. Most respondents (62. and the demographics of the achieved sample were statistically similar to the overall police population (data not shown). Because officers rotated through different shifts. and the study team. including headquarters.

. The scale consists of 11 items rated on a 4-point scale bounded by never and always.. sexual orientation. “I want to withdraw from constant demands and my time and energy at work. originally developed for health care workers by Revicki. was guided by qualitative data generated through in-depth interviews and focus groups and then further refined through two additional procedures. gender. Officers were asked to rate each item (except the critical incident questions) using a 5-point Likert-type scale (Likert. (c) lack of cooperation from fellow officers (e. “shooting perpetrator or suspect”.” The original scales had alpha coefficients of .” “I feel negative. or on assignment. race. Whitley.85 to . Kelen.g. MEASUREMENTS Police stressors. (1999) to measure work stress in both health care and public service worker populations.sagepub.g. was revised for use in this study. coding information. working the evening shift. (b) discrimination at work (e. Downloaded from cjb. The scale was dichotomized into “high” exposure (5) and “low” exposure (1) stressors. cognitive testing and pilot testing.” and “I think that I am not as effective at work as I should be.g. and psychometric data may be obtained by contacting the corresponding author. Officers who experienced a critical incident rated the emotional impact of this using a 3point scale ranging from low exposure (1) to high exposure (3).91. QUESTIONNAIRE A five-page. All procedures involving human participants were reviewed and approved by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Institutional Review Board. and Gallery (1993) and Revicki and Gershon (1996) and later modified and validated by Gershon. factored into five subscales as follows: (a) inequities at work or organizational unfairness (e.278 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR duty. futile. which was prepared at a 10th grade reading level to facilitate its rapid completion. Mean scores and other descriptive statistics were calculated for each subscale. “internal affairs investigations”). “I can trust my work partner”). and Murphy (1995) and Gershon et al. Johnson. with the upper quarter defined as “high” and the bottom three quartiles as “low” exposure. and (e) exposure to critical incidents (“making a violent arrest”. The development of the questionnaire. I find that I am likely to be more criticized for my mistakes.g. and adverse outcomes. Copies of the study questionnaire. “I view my work as just a job—it is not a career”). 132-item survey instrument was designed to address four major study constructs: police stressors. or depressed at work.g. The scale was dichotomized into high stress (above median) and low stress (below median). coping strategies. based on Beehr... (d) lack of job satisfaction (e. Sample items included. Wherever possible. 1932). physical characteristics]”. perceived work stress. Conrad. and all scales underwent psychometric validation. A 25-item police stressors scale.com at University of Bucharest on November 9. 2012 . “Compared to my peers. “Female officers are held to a higher standard than male officers”).. “Promotions are not tied to ability and merit”). Vlahov. A work stress scale. well-defined and well-characterized scales were used. “There is good and effective cooperation between units”. and Nieva’s (1995) Police Stress Scale. I feel that I am less likely to get chosen for certain assignments because of who I am [e. on sick leave. “It is likely that I will look for another fulltime job outside this department within the next year”. Perceived stress.

somatization (six items). “rely on your faith in God to see you through this rough time”). Major coping style was determined by the subscale with the highest score. “smoking. and their reliability was ascertained using coefficient alphas. “make a plan of action and follow it”. three items). Downloaded from cjb. “the administration does not support officers who are in trouble”). aggressive behavior (four items). possible score range = 1 to 5.35. serious accidents on or off the job (one item). SD = 0. Adverse outcomes in officers were measured. with odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) to guide interpretations.22. interpersonal family conflict (three items). α = . Maslach & Jackson. Derogatis. possible score range = 1 to 5.54. gambling. The scale factored into four subscales as follows: (a) cognitive (problem-solving) strategies (e. Adverse outcomes. (1995) was used to assess coping strategies. “you want to be alone”. and overall levels of perceived work stress were determined for all respondents. followed by perceived organizational unfairness (M = 3. and burnout (using Maslach’s Burnout Scale. relative. we developed a parsimonious model for work stress risk using logistic regression to simultaneously control for putative confounders and test possible interactions. 0 = no. “act as if nothing is bothering you”). Beehr et al. and the relationship between perceived stress and adverse outcomes was then determined using contingency tables.g.Gershon et al. 1981.. [1995] published the use of the revised scale in police officers). or friend about the problem”).. RESULTS POLICE STRESSORS Of the five police stressor subconstructs. three items).36) had the highest scores. 2012 . and all scales underwent correlation procedures. including (a) psychological (using a modification of the Symptom Check List-90. (1995) in a study conducted on police families and crossover stress. including Cronbach’s alpha. All scales were factor analyzed. Several of these scales were originally developed and evaluated by Beehr et al. (b) physiological. α = . 1986).00. “talk with your spouse.g. (c) avoidance (e.g. aggression. SD = 0. 1 = yes)..67. Stressors and coping strategies were identified and characterized.16.39) (e. and (c) behavioral.g. ANALYSES Factor analysis was applied to all new scales. “stay away from everyone”. three items). (b) faith-based strategies (e. and (d) negative behavioral (e..com at University of Bucharest on November 9.g. possible score range = 1 to 3.44.sagepub. exposure to critical incidents (M = 2. A 14-item modification of the Billings and Moos (1981) Coping Scale and the Police Coping Scale developed by Beehr et al. All scales are self-reported. SD = 0. alcohol consumption”).79) and job dissatisfaction (M = 3. discrimination (M = 3. with a health outcomes subscale (nine items. 1951. / POLICE WORK STRESS 279 Coping strategies. including subscales relating to alcohol use (using a modified alcohol dependency scale.. and spouse abuse (one item) (Cronbach. Based on these preliminary analyses. The items were rated on a 4-point scale ranging from never (1) to always (4). with subscales relating to anxiety (four items). posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS. α = . Several different scales were used to measure each of three adverse outcome domains. depression (nine items). “draw on your past experiences from a similar situation you have been in before”.

Downloaded from cjb. with membership in a racial/ethnic minority group associated with higher levels of perceived work stress. futile. α = . Exposure to critical incidents was high.7%). and spiritually depleted. or impatient over small problems.9 13.4 16.” 62% reported that they “wanted to withdraw from the constant demands” of their time and energy at work.072 SD = 0.5 90. with 92. Frequency scores were particularly high for certain items on the perceived stress scale.sagepub.44). emotionally.” 54% often felt “physically. Perceived work stress was not associated with other demographic characteristics. α = . SD = 0. the only answer that occurs to me is that I have to. possible range = 1 to 4. The frequency of exposure to various critical incidents and its perceived impact are shown in Table 1.05).8 Note.280 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR Critical Incidents in Policing TABLE 1: Exposure to Critical Incident Type of Incident Attending police funeral Needle stick injury or other exposure to bloody and body fluids Being the subject of an internal affairs investigation Shooting someone Personally knowing a victim Making a violent arrest Responding to a bloody crime scene Being involved in a hostage situation Responding to a call related to a chemical spill n 886 584 696 275 607 960 970 633 502 Percentage Reporting “High Emotional Affect” From Incident % 66.” 70% felt “moody. PERCEIVED WORK STRESS The perceived work stress scale had an overall mean score of 1. 21% reported that they would likely look for another job within the coming year.6 54.40.55).0 46. and a lack of cooperation and trust (M = 2.7% of respondents reporting one or more exposures.” and 45% sometimes or more often felt “uncaring about the problems and needs of the public when I am at work.com at University of Bucharest on November 9. including gender. 2012 .7 21.5 59. irritable. and shooting someone in the line of duty (32. depending on whether their stress score fell above or below the median score.4%). “When I ask myself why I get up and go to work. followed by needlestick injury (54.3%). possible score range = 1 to 5. N = 1.4 28.9 25.89).7 56.66.05). For example.68 (SD = 0.2 % 82. or depressed about work.3 9. and race (p < .80. 84% of respondents reported that they sometimes or more often felt “tired at work even with adequate sleep. being subjected to an internal affairs investigation (51. possible score range = 1 to 5.7 32. Demographic variables associated with perceived work stress included education level (p < . Attendance at police funerals had the greatest emotional impact (66. we assigned officers to either a high or low stress category.48.5 64.4 54.3 51.” 52% reported that they sometimes or more often felt “negative.” 63% frequently felt that they were “not as efficient at work as I should be.6 89. 56% reported that they sometimes or more often agreed with the statement. For the analyses.” Of the officers. with higher stress levels reported by officers without a college degree than by those with a college degree.4%). α = .

somatization = 1.Gershon et al.49) or negative strategies (M = 1.89).32. SD = 0. and anxiety = 1. α = . depression = 1.60 Note. 24% felt detached from people and activities that they believe were related to the stressful event.00. the most commonly reported were low energy (81%). memories. A greater proportion of officers who used problem-solving and faith-based coping strategies reported lower perceived stress. 5. and talking to family members or professionals when they felt stressed (39%).05). no interest in things (46%).18. and pains or pounding in the chest (46%).com at University of Bucharest on November 9.59.94.70 2. α = .49) included acting as if nothing was bothering them when they were feeling stressed (27%).41.25 3. SD = 0.80 — — 1. drawing on past experiences (40%).43. often.70 95% CI OR 95% CI 41.03.36.58.54. α = .71) to deal with the stress of their work: making a plan of action and following through (45%).00 (never.31) included relying on their faith in God (39%) and praying (32%). COPING STRATEGIES Officers commonly reported the following cognitive problem-solving coping strategies (M = 2. α = .47 (SD = 0.67).68 2. α = .88. 7% reported that they sometimes thought about ending their life. AOR = adjusted odds ratio. α = .96 — 3. 0. or dreams about distressing work events. range = 1 to 4. α = . 33% of the respondents reported that they had intrusive or recurrent thoughts.35. range = 1 to 4. range = 1 to 4. feeling blue (64%). Also. 2012 .38.34. yelling at others. and 23% avoided anything related to the stressful event. OR = odds ratio. 14% “treat the public as if they were impersonal objects.40.00 to 4. sometimes. / POLICE WORK STRESS TABLE 2: Relationship Between Perceived Work Stress and Coping Strategy 281 Univariate Percentage Reporting High Stress Coping strategy Cognitive Faith based Avoidance Negative behavior Multivariate AOR ns ns 2. and going to bars with fellow officers (5%). such as family members (6%).85). stomach pains (47%). whereas a higher percentage of officers who used avoidance or negative coping behaviors reported higher perceived stress (p < . SD = 0. SD = 0. headaches and pressure in the head (58%). The percentage of officers who reported high stress for each of the different coping subscales is reported in Table 2.39 (SD = 0. 3.” 31% stated that they felt “burned out” from the job.27 (SD = 0. α = .38. the mean scores for the stress-related psychological subscales were as follows: PTSS symptoms = 1.” Downloaded from cjb. α = .2 70. always). Frequency scores for specific items on the burnout scale were as follows: 33% were on “automatic pilot most of the time.69 2. burnout = 1. 3. Faith-based strategies (M = 1.72 0. ADVERSE OUTCOMES Psychological symptoms.7 63.8 0.4 43.75 ns 4. smoking more than usual (12%). self-blame (47%). 4.80). For individual items related to psychological symptoms. For example.76).96. CI = confidence interval.51 (SD = 0. range = 1 to 4.sagepub. Examples of commonly used avoidance (M = 2.” and 9% stated that they “are at the end of (their) rope. Adjusted for demographic variables. Symptoms of posttraumatic stress were common. Of a possible range of 1.53 (SD = 0.

87). α = . 30% reported that they currently smoke tobacco products.11.99 3. by pushing. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PERCEIVED WORK STRESS AND ADVERSE OUTCOMES Psychological outcomes. discrimination.1 42. spouse or significant other (7%).60 1.21). range = 0 to 1.21. 2. race. The strongest associations were for lack of organizational fairness (OR = 3.44. rank. including depression (OR = 9. 4. 14% felt worried or guilty about their alcohol consumption. Nearly 9% of respondents stated that they had experienced a serious injury on or off the job within the previous 6 months. or children (7%). and past military service. all of the psychological symptoms were associated with perceived work stress.9 57. Behavioral symptoms.com at University of Bucharest on November 9.29). 2.42.14 1. and a lack of cooperation and trust) that were measured were significantly associated at the univariate level with perceived work stress.24 2. and 14% stated that they sometimes did not remember what happened when they were drinking. After adjustments for demographic variables. The mean score for the alcohol dependence scale was 0. migraines (20%). 2.47 1.21 2. 2. 1.48.97 1. 4.3 42. 15% of the respondents admitted that they sometimes “smashed things” to relieve their stress.282 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR Association Between Job Stressors and Perceived Work Stress Among Police TABLE 3: Percentage Reporting Work Stress Job Stressors Poor cooperation Lack of organizational fairness Discrimination Job dissatisfaction Critical incidents exposure Univariate OR 1. education.73.93 1. At the univariate level.0 40.92. 2. and chronic insomnia (15%). followed by job dissatisfaction (OR = 3. grabbing. 3. gender. shoving.62 High Stress 54.54 2. 2. Regarding aggressive behavior. AOR = adjusted odds ratio.6 44. In all.47 2. perceived organizational unfairness.82 95% CI 1. anxiety (OR = 6.59 1. perceived work stress remained significantly associated with each of the job stressor subscales in the regression model (see Table 3).92 1. CI = confidence interval. Officers also acknowledged sometimes “getting physical. Several behaviors previously linked to work stress were also commonly reported by officers. fellow officers (7%).71 3.29 2.4 55.91).12. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN JOB STRESSORS AND PERCEIVED WORK STRESS In Table 3.9 Low Stress 46.21 Multivariate AORa 1. Downloaded from cjb.56.12). Each stressor is adjusted for age.1 95% CI 1.sagepub.0 59. job dissatisfaction. OR = odds ratio. 2012 .7 57.21 1. a.64 1.21. Physical symptoms. it is noteworthy that all five major categories of stressors (exposure to critical incidents.15 Note.62 (SD = 0. and hitting their pets (8%). 34% reported that they sometimes drank more than they had planned.56. This was followed by foot problems (23%). The most commonly reported physical symptom included chronic lower back pain (35%).” that is.

15 7.9 60.4 48.14 — 1.11.4 37.8 63. both anxiety and burnout were no longer significantly associated with perceived work stress after controlling for demographics and coping variable.82 2.76.2 34. As shown in Table 2.63 3.41 3.10 4.com at University of Bucharest on November 9.09.21 ns 2. somatization (OR = 5.82).86.83. OR = odds ratio. 3. Faith-based coping was unassociated with perceived stress. although depression (OR = 7.93 2. 3.1 36. the findings were similar with the addition of heart disease.8 65.68. with the exception of high blood pressure.49 ns 2. 2. All five categories of negative behaviors were associated with perceived work stress at both the univariate and multivariate levels.17 2. 2. 1.74 5.50). 3.30.70 3.75 3.63) and interpersonal conflict (OR = 2. and PTSS (OR = 2.2 29. Downloaded from cjb.76 4.25 5.99 7. 1. Physiological outcomes.52.16. 1.9 62.6 62. 4.40.25).52 7.30 ns 1.72) behaviors.27 7. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PERCEIVED WORK STRESS AND COPING STRATEGY Perceived work stress was strongly associated with avoidant (OR = 4.93).44 4. although this association did not remain at the multivariate level. — 1.sagepub.8 31.1 39.65 Note. IPV = intimate partner violence.1 30. Adjusted for demographic and coping variables burnout (OR = 5. 13.6 30.12 5. CI = confidence interval.94.1 37. 2012 .76 2.9 63. AOR = adjusted odds ratio.4 69. both avoidant and negative coping remained strongly associated with perceived stress at the multivariate level. PTSS = posttraumatic stress symptoms. whereas cognitive problem-solving coping behavior was inversely related to perceived work stress at the univariate level. which was no longer associated after controlling for demographics and coping.4 34.8 9.07.31.63 1.44 3.91 6. a.22.9 69.49 2.99 1. The strongest association was with aggression (OR = 2. 2.67 3.2 63.89 ns 2.2 36. 2. 1. Perceived work stress was associated at the univariate level with all the adverse health outcomes.51.89. 2.5 61.77.6 65.36 ns 1. Behavioral outcomes. / POLICE WORK STRESS TABLE 4: Adjusted Odds Ratio of Adverse Outcomes by Perceived Sources of Work Stress 283 % Reporting Outcome Variable Psychological Depression Anxiety Somatization PTSS Burnout Physical Chronic back pain High blood pressure Migraine Foot problems Heart disease Behavioral Alcoholism Aggression IPV Interpersonal conflict Univariate OR 95% CI OR Multivariatea 95% CI High Stress Low Stress 70.36. 5.Gershon et al. 2. somatization (OR = 3.88 ns 1.36 3. 2.84 4.8 36.36 2.74).50 ns 3.44). 4. 1.38 3.19 7.6 51.27 1. and PTSS (OR = 3.45.68 5.52.17 4.47 2.94 2.84 1.5 38.2 68.60 — 1. At the multivariate level. At the multivariate level. 4. 2.06.25) and negative coping (OR = 3.49) remained in the model (see Table 4).73.46.34 3. 10.

83 1.53. 5. somatization. not critical incidents. 1. 1996. This could be explained by officers expecting that line-of-duty critical incidents will occur but not expecting to be treated unfairly by their department. 2005.. 4. anxiety.48 1. 2.. This is an important finding.22.88 1. 1993. we noted that police officers who reported high levels of police stress were at an increased risk for a number of adverse health outcomes.94 2. As other studies have shown. DISCUSSION Like a number of other police studies (e. Burke. It may be seen as a betrayal of the trust that officers place in their leadership. Todd. 2002). trust in senior leadership might be especially important.00 6. AND HEALTH OUTCOMES The evidence of interaction between perceived work stress and coping styles on psychological outcomes was assessed. & Kirkcaldy. Similar to a number of other police studies.92 2.com at University of Bucharest on November 9. 1980).284 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR Adjusted Odds Ratio for Interactions Between Perceived Work Stress and Avoidance Behavior TABLE 5: Outcome Variable Anxiety OR Avoidance behavior High work stress Low work stress No avoidance behavior High work stress Low work stress Burnout 95% CI OR 95% CI 14. RELATIONSHIP AMONG PERCEIVED WORK STRESS. Brown.sagepub.74. aggression.43 — Note. 1995. burnout. CI = confidence interval. These findings have been found in other recent studies as well (Martinussen. 2012 . our study found that organizational stressors. 2007). 1985). Richardsen. Violanti et al. Given that officers have access to lethal Downloaded from cjb.00 9. & Subramanian. Violanti et al. Davidson & Veno. Brown & Campbell. & Burke. and PTSS.19 3. Cooper. This may be because officers with this health problem were unavailable to complete the survey (selection bias or survivor bias). in high-risk jobs such as policing. 23. especially depression. are most strongly associated with perceived police stress.81 3.70 1..g.. Johnson. we also detected a strong association between police stress and negative behavioral outcomes..79 — 9. as it addresses an area of concern that is disturbing and thus often overlooked. 1990. COPING. 1983.05.81. officers reporting high work stress and who relied on avoidant coping mechanisms were more than 14 times more likely to report anxiety and more than 9 times more likely to report burnout than were officers who did not rely on avoidance as a coping strategy. and increased use of alcohol (Beehr et al. including an earlier report on an older cohort of police officers. OR = odds ratio.90 1. Model also adjusted for demographic and coping variables. such as spousal abuse. A significant interaction was found between perceived work stress and avoidant coping (as shown in Table 5). It is surprising that we did not observe a relationship between police stress and high blood pressure (Gershon et al.12.54 0. 15.

Utilizing a cognitive behavioral framework. Furthermore. several departments have police peer support programs. Frye. well-trained officers recruited from the organizations they serve. Lin. Zhao. the stress inoculation approach is designed to strengthen coping skills and enhance stress tolerance by systematically desensitizing individuals to events perceived as stressful. and abuse of other family members and even pets (Ascione et al. Nevertheless. Similar to the results from He.sagepub. this study expands previous work by generating information on urban-based law enforcement personnel in two Downloaded from cjb. These programs are staffed by carefully selected. Robinson & Murdoch. & Erwin. the authors did not find that various coping strategies influenced stress. and the other is to identify and address modifiable stressors associated with policing. 2007. especially those in non-urban settings. A study conducted on IPV in police families also supported these findings (Gershon. These results differ from the recent findings of Morash et al. 2003). In that study. Both of these approaches can help to mitigate the effects of work stress among police officers. / POLICE WORK STRESS 285 weapons as well as training on aggression. LIMITATIONS As with all cross-sectional studies. because law enforcement personnel from only one police department were sampled. many unique and effective programs have been developed during the past two decades to address these. 1997. however. Thus far. and Archibold (2002) and Violanti (1992). With respect to modifying police stressors. which they suggested might be a reflection of cultural differences in communications and family dynamics common in members of a collective culture. Other community-based studies on intimate partner violence (IPV) have noted a correlation among alcohol.com at University of Bucharest on November 9. this study found that avoidant coping in the presence of high stress not only was ineffective but also led to increased scores on anxiety and burnout measures. suggest an important role for cognitive problem solving skills building in law enforcement. In addition. (2008) in a study of South Korean police officers. There are two paths to improvement: One is to improve the coping mechanisms of officers who may be exposed to stress as a part of their job. however. which seek to address work-related stress among officers (Robinson & Murdoch. 2005). provides the basis for more definitive studies in the future. & Campbell.Gershon et al. urban departments. Other innovative approaches might include Alcoholics Anonymous programs strictly limited to officers and their families and couples’ retreats led by experienced police counselors. and strategies that address police stress may be helpful to other departments similar in size and report rates. Walton-Moss. Manganelo. this particular finding is troubling. For example. This investigation. The present findings. Tiburzi. 2003).. the problems that the officers faced in this department are unlikely to be particularly different from other large. 1985). these results may not be generalizable to all police forces. The underlying assumption is that peers are in the best position to assist other peers in recognizing and acknowledging work-related stress and facilitating an intervention if necessary (Finn & Tomz. only anecdotal data have supported the finding that departments that actively address the concerns of their workforce are less likely to experience high turnover and poor relations with the general public. Stress inoculation training also offers a promising approach for promoting and cultivating resiliency among individuals exposed to multiple occupational stressors (Meichenbaum. 2005). this study has potential limitations related to the design that preclude the determination of causality. IPV. 2012 .

Although most officers completed the 132-item questionnaire in less than 30 minutes. and the demographics of the respondents were similar to the demographic profile of the department as a whole. 1991). alcohol use. Finally. 2012 . There is always a competing interest in survey research in including all the key variables yet not overburdening the respondent. analyses were directed at determinants using relative rather than absolute measures. This is always a concern with sensitive items on non-normative behaviors. programs on conflict resolution and workplace wellness are more prevalent. however. Recall bias should not be a serious problem because respondents were asked to recall events that occurred within the previous 6 months. and the effort we made to introduce the study and build trust might have mitigated this problem to some extent.g. CONCLUSION Employers in general are increasingly aware of the quality of work-life needs of their workforce to stay competitive and productive and to retain workers in an increasingly restricted and aging labor market. spousal abuse.286 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR important ways. The present study’s results underscore the need to reevaluate police training of recruits at the police academy to ensure they get the training necessary to meet the daily challenges and demands of police work.sagepub. data were collected from officers from all ranks so that comparison by job category and rank could be made. Consequently. changing hiring and training practices. admittedly this could have resulted in less than thoughtful responses and possible acquiescence. another potential limitation of the study was the length of the questionnaire. adding diversity programs. Officers who resigned. retired. Downloaded from cjb. the present study had a strong response rate. etc. or were deceased because of their experiences with stress were not represented in the sample. fortunately. encouraging officers and couples to enter confidential counseling. the strong support of the police officers union. making structural administrative changes. providing peer counselors. This problem is admittedly difficult to control for in a study of this nature. Fortunately. Similarly. especially in some of the high-risk industries and workforces (Stokols. checks of the internal validity of responses showed that this problem was probably minimal. These results may underrepresent these “exposed” workers and lead to inaccurate rates and underestimations of the strength of association between stress and stress outcomes..com at University of Bucharest on November 9. the general response rate was extremely high.g. were out on sick leave. An additional potential limitation is the effect of survival bias on the results. as respondents may give socially desirable responses. might actually have resulted in underestimations of the true magnitude of the association.) to help minimize the risk of work stress among police officers. Because officers were asked to respond to sensitive questions (e. adding critical incident management programs.). The anonymous nature of the study.. First. thereby enhancing generalizations of observed associations. In addition. etc. There may also be biases resulting from self-reports. Progressive police departments favor this approach and actively implement innovative strategies (e. This type of bias. it may be advisable for police departments to continue to find opportunities to improve the work environment of officers and to find new and effective mechanisms for addressing stressors in policing. Second. Another limitation is related to potential response bias. they may not have been forthcoming or accurate in their responses.

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M. R. Robyn Gershon’s research group at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. F. Psychological Reports. B.. Canton is the research director to Dr. (1983). / POLICE WORK STRESS 289 Violanti. 455-458. 11. C.. J. (2005). & Howe. Xianbin Li is a mathematical statistician and recently received his PhD in biostatistics from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Manganelo. Journal of Public Science and Administration. 389-394. J. Frye. 30. His research interests include epidemiological research and methods in biostatistics and epidemiology. She holds a BA in political science from Amherst College. Robyn R. J. 2012 . M..Gershon et al. M. H. B. J. J. 25. and alcohol use: The police connection. Marshall. Journal of Community Health. Journal of Occupational Medicine. coping.and community-level intervention studies and community-based participatory research to address social determinants of health. J. J. Prior to joining the center.. (1985).. 824-826. 106-110. V. J. M.. Stress. B. Violanti.. Gershon is professor of clinical sociomedical sciences in nursing at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Allison N. His research interests include individual. Risk factors for intimate partner violence and associated injury among urban woman. R. Ranking police stressors. 75. She holds a DrPH from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. she was a consultant and researcher at the Center on Social Policy and Practice in the Workplace at Columbia University. R. Her research interests include high-risk and high-stress work populations. She holds a PhD in social policy and policy analysis from Columbia University. (1994). He received his baccalaureate and master’s in nursing from the University of Maryland and his doctorate in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Marshall. Violanti.. David Vlahov is senior vice president for research and director of the Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies at the New York Academy of Medicine. 377-389. Violanti. H. psychological distress and the coping function of alcohol. & Campbell. J. & Aron.com at University of Bucharest on November 9. Briana Barocas is the director of research at the Center for Violence and Recovery at New York University.. J. & Howe.sagepub. (1983). Downloaded from cjb. Journal of Police Science and Administration 13. Walton-Moss. Police occupational demands. The police stress process. where she oversaw a number of research projects on employment policy and practice issues. & Marshall. M.

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