Profiles of U.S. Law Enforcement Officers’ Physical, Psychological, and Behavioral Health: Results From a Nationally Representative Survey of Officers

Published date01 September 2021
Date01 September 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Profiles of U.S. Law
Enforcement Officers’
Physical, Psychological,
and Behavioral
Health: Results
From a Nationally
Survey of Officers
Elizabeth A. Mumford
Weiwei Liu
, and Bruce G. Taylor
Law enforcement officers’ health and wellness is important at the individual and
community levels in terms of maintaining a fit workforce to uphold the mission of
public safety. The current study was designed to assess officer wellness across the
U.S. From a nationally representative random sample of 1,135 local and state agen-
cies, a random, probability-based sample of officers was selected, oversampling for
female officers. Latent class analyses were conducted to assess wellness profiles
based on a set of eleven physical, psychological, and behavioral health indicators
for 2,232 officers. Personal and professional characteristics were included as auxil-
iary variables in models of the resulting classes. Results from this sample indicated
that over two-thirds of officers fit a healthy profile, whereas one in four officers
presents with moderate health concerns and nearly 6% are classified in a profile of
broad health concerns. In this sample, sexual assault in childhood, greater exposure
to critical incidents, working a current rotation schedule, and being female were
Department of Public Health, NORC at the University of Chicago, Bethesda, Maryland, United States
Corresponding Author:
Elizabeth A. Mumford, NORC at the University of Chicago, 4350 East-WestHighway, 8th Floor, Bethesda,
MD 20814, United States.
Police Quarterly
2021, Vol. 24(3) 357–381
!The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611121991111
characteristics associated with broad health concerns. Emotional and/or physical
assault in childhood, greater exposure to critical incidents, and being female were
characteristics associated with moderate health concerns, whereas older age and
being Hispanic were protective factors. In sum, full-time sworn law enforcement
officers across the U.S. are reasonably healthy but their exposures to stressful
situations put them at increased risk particularly in terms of post-traumatic stress,
risky drinking, and suicidality. These results are important for agency administrators
and policymakers to consider in terms of wellness programs, prevention efforts and
budget allocations.
police health, police wellness, nationally representative
Law enforcement as a profession is characterized by operational risk and orga-
nizational stressors to officers’ safety and health, relevant to individual perfor-
mance (Abdollahi, 2002) as well as to the recruitment, hiring, training, and
retention of officers (U.S. Department of Justice, 2020). The daily risks
during routine operations, plus risks associated with major natural or man-
made disasters, are recognized to have an impact on officer mental health and
behavioral outcomes in the short and long-term (Regehr et al., 2019; Velazquez
& Hernandez, 2019). A recent systematic review suggests that police officers’
exposure to occupational health hazards often arise from accidents, chemicals,
needle sticks, unacceptable noise levels, air pollutants, and the muscular chal-
lenges of extended periods of driving and/or lifting heavy objects, as well as
critical incidents such as exposure to an abused child or being trapped in a life
threatening situation (Mona et al., 2019). Compounding direct exposures to
occupational risks, officers also face secondary trauma risks through their pro-
vision of support to community members and peers (Greinacher et al., 2019).
Moreover, officers face these occupational hazards in the context of unique
organizational stressors, such as rotating shifts, chain of command management
environment, and cultural stigmas regarding mental health supports (Purba &
Demou, 2019). Parallel to documentation of the hazards of working in law
enforcement, there is a growing body of research examining officer wellness
Wellness Indicators
While law enforcement officers have been shown to have poor outcomes relative
to the general population on a number of psychological and behavioral health
358 Police Quarterly 24(3)

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