LAPPL Blog: The official blog of the Los Angeles Policy Protective League

Understanding the hidden danger of stress in police work

By John R. Mumma on 07/08/2009 @ 11:02 PM

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All of us in law enforcement understand why police work is inherently stressful. The constant risk of confrontations with suspects and other types of high-pressure incidents is something we – and, by extension, our family members – find stressful on a daily basis.

Many studies over the years have shown an unmistakable correlation between stress and a variety of physical illnesses, and now comes a new study providing fresh evidence of how police work puts our health at risk [“Police Work Undermines Cardiovascular Health, Comparison To General Population Shows,” June issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630132017.htm].

Research by Dr. John Violanti and his colleagues at the University of Buffalo show that the stress of police work may undermine officers' cardiovascular health. (This does not come as much of a surprise, as we have had a number of members hospitalized recently for heart attacks and other stress issues.) Results showed that police work was associated with increased subclinical cardiovascular disease –there was more plaque build-up in the carotid artery – compared to the general population, a finding could not be explained by conventional heart disease risk factors.

The research will continue to provide a greater understanding of how the working conditions of police officers puts us at risk in ways we don’t yet fully appreciate. From that understanding we may learn better how to lessen stress and in so doing, reduce our exposure to work-related illnesses. For example, exercise and time away from work are vitally important to lowering stress levels.

I urge you all to take care of your physical and mental health. After all, what good is that pension if you aren’t here to collect it?

Please share your thoughts and join the discussion on this important issue.

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