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Am J Ind Med. 1986;10(4):383-97.

Mortality of a municipal worker cohort: III. Police officers.


Very little is known about the long-term health risks associated with the high stress police officer occupation. We report here on a retrospective cohort of 2,376 ever-employed white male police officers employed between January 1950 and October 1979. Vital status was obtained for 96%, the officers accumulating a total of 39,462 person-years. Six-hundred sixty-one deaths were observed. Total mortality from all causes was comparable to that of the overall U.S. white male population (standardized mortality ratio [SMR] = 106). Significantly increased mortality was seen for all malignant neoplasms combined (SMR = 127), cancer of the esophagus (SMR = 286), and cancer of the colon (SMR = 180). Significantly lower than expected mortality was seen for infectious diseases (SMR = 26), respiratory diseases (SMR = 64), and accidents (SMR = 60). Internal cohort comparisons revealed that policeman exhibited significantly higher mortality from suicide compared to all other municipal employees (rate ratio = 2.9). Analysis of mortality by length of service as a police officer showed that those employed 10-19 years were at significantly increased risk of digestive cancers and cancers of the colon and lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues and decreased risk for all diseases of the circulatory system. Policeman employed more than 40 years had significantly elevated SMRs for all causes, all malignant neoplasms combined, digestive cancers, cancers of the bladder and lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues, and arteriosclerotic heart disease. Risk of mortality from arteriosclerotic heart disease tended to increase with increasing years employed. These findings are discussed in light of the police stress literature. The hypotheses generated in this study must be tested through study of the role of important confounders including reactions to stress on the job.

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