If you are a police officer in California, you most likely chose this profession, knowing about the many safety hazards posed by careers in law enforcement. What you might not have known are the many ways in which your job can affect your overall health. Research has shown that a variety of ailments, diseases and illnesses correlates with police work.
A professor of epidemiology and environmental health at a university in another state shared his findings on the impact that factors like stress have on the health of police officers. His research shows that the life expectancy of a police officer is significantly lower than that of other members of the population. Along with stress, officers risk the dangers posed by exposure to blood-borne pathogens, radar, lead and methamphetamine during lab raids — among others.
Other research findings
The professor’s research also found above-average occurrences of the following — compared to the general population:
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma and brain cancer
- Metabolic syndrome
The likelihood of some of these can increase over time during active duty.
Shift work and the lack of sleep
Sleep is as necessary as water and food to sustain your health. However, working outside of regular daylight hours is par for the course in your law enforcement career. The biology of your body requires sleep at night, and going against the built-in circadian rhythm could have the following consequences:
- Mood disorders
- Compromised immune system
- Work-related injuries
- Decreased mental faculties
- Heart disease
- Strained relationships
Shift work and sleeping when others are awake also strain family life and personal relationships. If you are on long-term shift work cycles, you could even be unable to spend time with family members and friends for months or weeks.
How can you mitigate the risks of stress and sleep disorders?
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, police officers can lower their risks of occupational disease or illness by taking the following mitigating steps:
- Establish an exercise routine and maintain it to improve your personal health, reduce stress and help you to sleep soundly.
- Eat a healthy, wholesome and balanced diet.
- Avoid the intake of stimulants like caffeine for several hours before the end of your shift.
- Allow yourself enough time between shifts to get the amount of sleep your body needs.
- Choose a comfortable place that is dark, quiet and cool to sleep.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages and heavy meals before going to sleep.
Do not lose sight of the adverse consequences of work-related stress and inadequate sleep. Seek medical and psychological care when you become aware of the first signs of ill health. Do not postpone seeking help for fear of lost work time and medical costs. The California workers’ compensation insurance system will have your back, and an attorney with experience in fighting for maximum benefits for those who protect us can provide invaluable support and guidance.