The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Police Officers’ Mental Health
Preliminary results of a Portuguese sample
This study had a twofold objective. First, we aimed to measure the levels of stress symptoms and burnout on the police officers who volunteered for the study. Second, we proposed to examine the effect of COVID-19 exposure and exposure to traumatic experiences in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic on the officers’ mental health.
The National Directorate of the Policia de Segurança Pública (Portuguese Public Security Police) approved this study and was responsible for distributing information about the study and the link to an online questionnaire among their officers. As expected, the levels of burnout, psychological distress, and posttraumatic stress (PTS) were higher than similar professional populations in non-pandemic conditions. Officers with fewer than 11 years of work experience showed fewer symptoms of PTS compared to those with longer work experience, but at the same time, they reported higher levels of burnout. Women revealed higher scores of burnout-disengagement, but no other differences compared to their male colleagues. Officers who were married or living in a partner relationship obtained lower levels of posttraumatic stress than officers who reported being single, divorced, or widowed. The responsibility of caring for an elderly relative increased psychological distress and PTS levels. In general, exposure to COVID-19 or being at risk of infection had less impact on the officers’ mental health than exposure to traumatic experiences.
In conclusion, as expected, the pandemic is having a stressful effect on police officers, but it is not homogeneous among different groups. Implications for intervention policies are discussed.
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