A major goal of this study was to collect physiological (e.g., blood lipids, blood pressure, body measures) and psychological symptomatology measures from a randomly selected sample of police officers to establish a baseline of health in the Buffalo, New York Police Department. The motivation behind this goal is to isolate high risk health elements in policing that may be reduced by intervention. Data obtained in the present study may then be used in a future prospective study of police to determine both the specific type and effectiveness of intervention required to reduce risk. A second goal of the study was to assess the risk associated with police health measures compared to non-police control groups. It was hypothesized that there may be health factors among police officers that place them at a higher risk for disease than the regional civilian population. Findings thus far indicate that older officers (40-45 yrs of age and 56-60 yrs of age) had significantly higher LDL/HDL cholesterol ratios than did controls. Additionally, police officers as a group had significantly higher pulse rates, diastolic blood pressure, and Body Mass Index (BMI) scores than controls. Police officers also scored significantly higher on psychological depression measures when compared with population controls. An important part of this proposed study was to assess health factors of minority and women police officers. To date, there exists very little information on the health status of these groups, let alone any comparisons with controls. Our results thus far indicate that a higher percentage of women officers (72%) had a total cholesterol level of over 200 than did male officers. Women officers, however, had LDL/HDL cholesterol levels on average lower than male officers. Approximately 50% of women officers had a measured BMI of over 25, indicating a possible health risk factor. African-American and Hispanic officers combined had, on average, higher cholesterol levels than white officers and 84% of minority officers had a BMI over 25, compared to 62% of white officers. A third goal of this investigation was to assess the psychological well-being of the police sample. Police, as a group, scored higher than a standardized norm population on several indices of psychological symptomatology. Among these were discomfort in daily interactions, anxiety, hostility, suspiciousness, and loss of self-worth. Women officers scored significantly higher than male officers in uncomfortable personal interactions, depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. Minority officers scored significantly higher than white officers on feelings of isolation and suspiciousness.
John M Violanti, PhD, Social and Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, 270 Farber Hall, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14214