What Health Challenges Do Police Face Right Now?

February 27, 2017

What Health Challenges Do Police Face Right Now?

There is no industry that is perfect, law enforcement has its own downsides.  The main downside that officers need to concern themselves with is the health concerns that come with the job.  Knowing the health concerns that you may face helps you to combat them and be a healthier person.  Keep reading to find some of the health concerns that you may face and what they mean to you.

Back Problems

I don’t carry a firearm or any defensive tools anymore, but I still wear between 15-20 lbs. worth of gear and uniform to work every day.  A majority of that is spread around my waist.  While the human body is impressively strong, our backs were never designed to carry so much weight on the waist.  Over time, the wear and tear from this weight can cause permanent damage to back, shoulders, necks, and joint.

In order to resolve this pain, you have a few options.  Weight distribution belts are a great option that don’t require much modification to your loadout.  They are worn below your belt and help to move the weight onto your hips and lower back.  A second option is to wear suspenders but many people don’t like how these look and they also pose a safety concern if they are grabbed by a subject who isn’t easily controllable.  Lastly, you can wear a load bearing vest, these are becoming a much more popular option as more and more departments are allowing them.

Low Amounts of Sleep

Police often work overtime, go through a lot of training, and have stress.   All of these factors combined, result in a lack of sleep.  Many medical professionals have done studies into the effects of the lack of sleep.  Recent studies have shown that a significant lack of sleep can cause you to be equally or more impaired than being under the influence of alcohol.

Sleep by itself isn't just important, you need to establish a regular sleep schedule.  The regular sleep schedule helps to keep the body in its proper rhythms.

Wondering what happens when you have a lack of sleep and/or don’t have a regular sleep schedule?  Your body starts to operate incorrectly.  You can suffer from any of the following:

  • Fat build up

  • Unsound decision making

  • Lower mental faculties

  • Severe tiredness

  • Heart conditions

  • Depression

  • Higher chance of injury

High-Stress Levels

There are very few jobs as stressful as being a law enforcement official.  Stress can be caused by just about everything that a police officer does.  From the nerve-racking approach during a traffic stop to clearing a building that houses a known shooter, that isn’t it.  The chain of command also causes stress, even to those that love the job.

In turn, stress effects our bodies.  Stress wears on us physically and can cause us to start experiencing physical symptoms such as heart problems, organ problems, and obesity.  It also leads to mental health problems.  One of the most concerning mental health ailments that are spreading among officers recently is depression.  Post-traumatic stress disorder, poor decision making, and more are also being found in more and more officers.

These conditions have probably always been present in the law enforcement community but more light is starting to be shed on officer health and safety.  Concerns about officer health are the start towards making a safer police department.

Some Health Tips For Police Officers

Looking to remain healthy while working as a police officer?  It might not always seem easy but we have come up with some tips to help you along the way.

  • Try to get to sleep at the same time every day. Keep your work schedule on your off days so that there isn’t an adjustment period and your sleep rhythm doesn’t get thrown off.

  • Seven to nine hours of sleep should be sought out every day to help ensure that you are as healthy as possible.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol or using medication (Tylenol, Advil, etc) regularly because they all affect our bodies.

  • Eat a healthy diet with a balanced amount of foods. Food can help to fight many physical and mental health conditions.

  • Exercise regularly to help ensure that your body is getting the physical attention that it needs. This will help to prevent stress and weight gain.

  • Stretch regularly. Our bodies use stretching to help prevent chronic injuries, weight bearing issues, and to prevent sudden pains or conditions.

  • Do not be afraid to seek medical or mental help when needed. This can make a huge difference in your quality of life.  Also, make sure that you are having regular check-ups to help catch health problems early.

Being a law enforcement official is hard enough as it is without having to deal with health problems.  Staying on top of your health is the best way to ensure that you don’t have any problems.  Reading this article and knowing what you may face is the first step to combating the various issues that are out there.


About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Department of Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at ian@iandscofield.com.

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