UB study reveals Buffalo Police health risks
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • July 11, 2012 @ 9:00am
Before you chide police officers for their early retirements and rather lofty pensions, take note of the avalanche of mental stress they experience and the career’s long-term effects.
According to a University at Buffalo study by professor John Violanti, PhD, police officers are at greater risk for chronic disease—largely due to a combination of stress levels and irregular shift cycles.
[The study] 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.
In addition to the effects of stress, the unnatural work hours of the Buffalo Police Department—unavoidable, unfortunately—have an equally adverse impact.
More than 25 percent of the officers had metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms believed to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, versus 18.7 percent of the general population
The most telling quote of UB’s presentation of the research, however, is how the expectations of police officers—and what they represent in our society—contribute to poor health and perhaps a desire to hide symptoms.
“The police culture doesn’t look favorably on people who have problems,” Violanti says in the article. “Not only are you supposed to be superhuman if you’re an officer, but you fear asking for help.”
“If you have heart disease, you may not be allowed to go back on the street,” he continued. “That’s a real threat. If you go for mental health counseling, you may not be considered for promotions and you may be shamed by your peers and superiors. In some cases, your gun can be taken away, so there is a real fear of going for help.”
Violanti’s study—called Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS)—surveyed 464 police officers over a five-year span.
(Header photo courtesy of Flickr / Torbakhopper).