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Shifts, Extended Work Hours, and Fatigue: An Assessment of Health and Personal Risks for Police Officers

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2012
64 pages
This study examined police officers' involvement in shift work and its impact on adverse health and psychological outcomes.
The study found that officers working midnight shifts were, on average, younger and had a slightly higher mean number of metabolic syndrome components (a cardiovascular risk syndrome). The findings suggest that shorter sleep duration and more overtime combined with midnight shift work may be important contributors to the metabolic syndrome. Night shift work was significantly and independently associated with snoring and associated apnea, which is linked to poor sleep quality. Officers on the night shift who had sleep problems were at higher risk for obesity. Among officers with higher posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, the prevalence ratio of suicide ideation increased by 13 percent with every 10-unit increase in the percentage of hours worked on afternoon shift. The prevalence of suicide ideation significantly increased among policewomen with higher depressive symptoms and increasing day shift hours, as well as among policemen with higher PTSD symptoms with increasing afternoon shift hours. From preliminary analysis, nearly twice as many day-shift workers (6.6 percent) died during the follow-up period compared with either afternoon (3.3 percent) or night (3.4 percent) shift workers; however, since day-shift workers were 9-10 years older on average than either afternoon or night shift workers, it is possible that older age was responsible for their elevated mortality. There were increased risks for cancer and cardiovascular disease across all shifts compared to the general population. Future analyses with the complete sample will take into account differences in the length of time individual officers were at risk for death, duration of shift work, and other demographic or lifestyle factors that may be important to consider. Details of the study methodology are reported. 15 tables, 2 figures, and 127 references

Date Published: March 1, 2012