Dying for the job: police work exposure and health. Violanti JM, ed. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Ltd., 2014 Feb; :93-114
In summary, female police officers comprise a small yet slowly increasing percentage of police departments today, even though policies have been in existence for decades to increase their representation. Female officers face unique stressors as a result of working in a male-dominated occupation, including work factors such as perception of inadequate physical ability, sexual harassment and discrimination, and non-work stressors like family responsibilities and pregnancy. The proportion of female officers tends to decrease with decreasing police department size. In the smaller police departments, women officers in general and minority women in particular may have less coworker support and be more affected by these stressors. Prior investigations including the study of police officers in Buffalo, New York have found significant cross-sectional associations between police stressors and psychological and physiological health. These include associations with burnout, depression, metabolic syndrome, and subclinical (or early) cardiovascular disease. Future research studies of police officers should strive to include more female police officers, particularly women in the smaller police agencies. Increased participation by female officers in research studies will help to identify specific biologic mechanisms driving the sex differences, such as differences in hormone levels or inflammation. Additionally, research studies with prospective designs are highly desirable and will help to determine causal associations (i.e., does depression lead to metabolic syndrome).