BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Police work is one of the most stressful jobs
in society, but little is known about the effects of this stress on
an officer's long-term health.
John Violanti, PhD, professor of social and preventive medicine
in the University at Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health
Professions, hopes to fill this information void through a
five-year $2.7 million grant from the National Institute of
Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The research will study how job stress affects officers over
time and will provide information on specific causes of stress on
police. The findings will be used to develop prevention programs
"Certain characteristics of police work, such as shift work,
long work hours, high demands and exposure to trauma have been
associated with increased levels of psychological stress and, in
some cases, with adverse cardiovascular outcomes," says
"An observational study conducted over a period of time can
provide more convincing evidence that these workplace stressors
lead to development of adverse physiological and psychological
Violanti and colleagues will conduct a five-year follow-up of
approximately 465 police officers for whom baseline data and a
research protocol already have been established. Violanti has
published several papers based on this baseline data.
The new study will examine physiological and psychological
measures of stress, and evaluate potential associations of these
measures with subclinical markers of early signs of cardiovascular
and metabolic disease.
Markers of disease include blood pressure, laboratory
measurement of lipids, glucose and insulin, and variability of
heart rate to assess autonomic nervous system function. Researchers
will conduct ultrasound imaging studies to measure carotid artery
wall thickness, which indicates the risk of atherosclerosis, and
reactivity in the brachial artery, the major blood vessel of the
upper arm, to determine blood vessel function.
Officers also will undergo dual-energy x-ray absorptiometric
(DXA) to measure the composition of lean muscle tissue and bone
In addition, the researchers will examine psychosocial factors
known to be detrimental to health, such as perceived stress, and
factors known to be protective, including personal resiliency and
"Data acquired from this research may contribute to a better
understanding of how exposure to stressors over time may provide
early indicators of cardiovascular and metabolic abnormalities,"
says Violanti. "NIOSH data shows that 40 percent of workers
describe their job as very or extremely stressful. Given the
likelihood that stress is relatively common in the workplace,
addressing situations that may be associated with stress could
benefit a large proportion of the working population."
Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, UB professor, associate chair of the
Department of Social and Preventive Medicine and vice provost for
strategic initiatives, and Joan Dorn, PhD, professor and chair of
the UB Department of Exercise and Nutrition Science, are study
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.