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The Role of Military Service and Childhood Adversity in US Law Enforcement Officer Health and Wellness

NCJ Number
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology Volume: 36 Dated: 2021 Pages: 490-505
Date Published
16 pages

This study is the first attempt to systematically examine the impact of prior military service and childhood adversity on physical and psychological health outcomes during subsequent law enforcement employment.


Given that at least one in five US law enforcement officers (LEOs) is a military veteran, and many law enforcement agencies provide preferential status for veterans in the hiring process, understanding the effects of prior military service on LEO physical and psychological well-being is important for supporting officer safety and wellness. Using nationally representative data, we examine the interrelationships between prior military service, combat deployments, childhood adversity, and three health outcomes during subsequent LE employment—PTSD, sleep problems, and suicidality. Contrary to prior research and our hypotheses, we found that prior military service and combat experience were not associated with an increased risk of PTSD, sleep problems, or suicidality. Furthermore, while greater exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among non-veteran LEOs was linked with increased odds of PTSD, among veteran LEOs, greater ACE exposure was significantly linked with reduced odds of PTSD. We offer several possible explanations to account for these findings. (Publisher Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2021