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Study links police stress to health problems

July 18, 2012

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Buffalo, NY – Job-related stress puts police officers at higher risk for long-term physical and mental health problems, according to a new study from the University at Buffalo.

Researchers studied 464 police officers from the Buffalo Police Department over five years and found a link between stress and obesity, suicide, sleeplessness and cancer, according to a UB press release.

In many areas, officers fared worse than the general population. For example, 40 percent of study participants were obese, compared with 32 percent in the general population. Officers who worked the night shift had a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that includes abdominal obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and stroke, the release stated.

Also, suicide rates were 8 times higher among working police officers than retirees, and officers with 30 years of service had an increased risk of developing Hodgkin's lymphoma and brain cancer.

Researchers said police culture discourages seeking treatment for stress because officers fear they will be taken off the street or not promoted. Recommendations include addressing the signs of stress and treatment during police officer training.

The study was published in the July issue of the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health.

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