Probable PTSD, depression and anxiety in 40,299 UK police officers and staff: Prevalence, risk factors and associations with blood pressure

Sharon A.M. Stevelink*, Elena Opie, David Pernet, He Gao, Paul Elliott, Simon Wessely, Nicola T. Fear, Matthew Hotopf, Neil Greenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Police employees undertake challenging duties which may adversely impact their health. This study explored the prevalence of and risk factors for probable mental disorders amongst a representative sample of UK police employees. The association between mental illness and alterations in blood pressure was also explored. Methods Data were used from the Airwave Health Monitoring Study which was established to monitor the possible physical health impacts of a new communication system on police employees. Data included sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle habits, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and blood pressure. Descriptive statistics were used to explore the prevalence of probable mental disorders and associated factors. Stepwise linear regression was conducted, controlling for confounding variables, to examine associations between mental disorders and blood pressure. Results The sample included 40,299 police staff, police constable/sergeants and inspectors or above. Probable depression was most frequently reported (9.8%), followed by anxiety (8.5%) and PTSD (3.9%). Groups at risk for probable mental disorders included police staff, and police employees who reported drinking heavily. Police employees exposed to traumatic incidents in the past six months had a doubling in rates of anxiety or depression and a six-fold increase in PTSD compared to those with no recent trauma exposure. Adjusted logistic regression models did not reveal any significant association between probable mental disorders and systolic blood pressure but significantly elevated diastolic blood pressure (=1mmHg) was found across mental disorders. Conclusions These results show lower rates of probable mental disorders, especially PTSD, than reported in other studies focusing on police employees. Although mental ill health was associated with increased diastolic blood pressure, this was unlikely to be clinically significant. These findings highlight the importance of continued health monitoring of members of the UK police forces, focusing on employees recently exposed to traumatic incidents, heavy drinkers and police staff.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0240902
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11 November
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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