Research News

UB receives DOJ funding for police health study


Published October 18, 2019

“These challenges often affect not only the officers’ health and performance — they can also impact the officers’ families and the people they seek to protect and serve. ”
John Violanti, research professor
Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health

A UB epidemiologist who studies police stress, health and suicide, as well as PTSD in officers, has received new federal funding to conduct research on the health effects experienced among police officers.

John Violanti, research professor of epidemiology and environmental health in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, was awarded $834,177 from the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) as part of the FY19 Research and Evaluation in Safety, Health and Wellness in the Criminal Justice System program under the NIJ.

The funding was announced by Rep. Brian Higgins.

The subjects of the research will be 200 city of Buffalo police officers who participated in the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress Study (BCOPS). Violanti led that study, which took place from 2003-09 and examined the psychological effects of the irregular hours and demanding environment that police officers are exposed to as a result of their work.

The study looked at relationships between work stress, lifestyle factors, physiological stress indicators, and other measurable physical variables. Funding from that study came from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

This research project will utilize statistical modeling methods to characterize the physical, rather than psychological, health effects that are a result of police officers’ atypical work hours. In doing so, it seeks to identify indicators of those effects early on, as well as strategies to mitigate them.

“Police officers dedicate their careers to protecting our communities and in doing so face unique circumstances and challenges,” Higgins said. “This significant federal research funding for the University at Buffalo will help us understand how those circumstances impact officers and hopefully shed light on how we can address those negative effects.”

Police officers have a difficult job to do, Violanti noted. “This funding is critical to help us better understand how police officers adjust, or don’t, to the rigors of the job, including shift work, overtime and secondary employment. The goal is to outline strategies for adapting to these factors, while identifying early biological indicators of chronic disease and other adverse health outcomes commonly associated with the stressors of law enforcement work,” he said.

“This is, to our knowledge, the first study to longitudinally examine how police officers adapt to or struggle with abnormal work hours. The physical and psychological challenges that come with atypical work hours can take a serious toll,” Violanti said.

“These challenges often affect not only the officers’ health and performance — they can also impact the officers’ families and the people they seek to protect and serve.”