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Stress gives rise to occupational disease for police officers

Police officers offer a great public service to North Carolina residents and give them the peace of mind to get a good night's rest. However, recent research suggests the stress involved in police officers' jobs may increase their chances of developing physical or mental illnesses.

The study may be the first of its kind, as it breaks down health differences according to profession rather than the more traditionally studied ethnic or socioeconomic factors. This study focuses solely on police population in order to determine the link between occupational stress and mental and physical health.

Researchers found that more than 25 percent of police officers had metabolic syndrome, compared to less than 19 percent of the general population. According to the researchers, night work and job stress contributed to the increased risk for metabolic syndrome in police officers. The symptoms of metabolic syndrome include abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. Furthermore, compared to the 32 percent of the general population found obese, 40 percent of police officers are obese.

High levels of stress also contributed to poor sleeping patterns, with female police officers four times more likely, and male officers six times more likely, to have poorer sleep quality than the general population.

Not only were there more workplace illnesses found in police officers, authors also added that police officers are more reluctant to report problems and seek help due to the stigma involved. Seeking help for a heart disease may take a police officer off the street and reporting a mental health problem may hinder a promotion.

The University of Buffalo researchers suggested that police officers be taught how to identify signs of stress and not hesitate seeking treatment.

In addition to this, workers should always consider filing a workers' compensation claim for any illnesses developed during the course of their employment. Filing a claim may make compensation available to cover medical expenses incurred during treatment and replace lost wages.

Source: Philly.com, "Police work takes heavy toll: Study," Mary Elizabeth Dallas, July 13, 2012

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