Associations between major life events, traumatic incidents, and depression among Buffalo police officers

Int J Emerg Ment Health. Winter 2007;9(1):25-35.


Police officers are considered to be a highly stressed population due to the nature of the work they perform. Repeated exposures to work stress and stressful life events can affect one's psychological and physiological well-being. The objective of this study was to determine whether negative life events and traumatic police incidents are associated with depression in police officers. One hundred randomly selected urban officers completed a series of self-report measures as part of a cross-sectional pilot study. Using four negative life event categories (none, low, medium, and high) a J-shaped pattern was observed with mean depression scores (+/- SD) of 9.26 (+/- 7.41), 6.21 (+/- 5.94), 8.17 (+/- 7.42), and 14.64 (+/- 8.04), respectively (test for linear trend p = 0.0186). Adjustment for age (p = 0.0209), then age, gender and ethnicity together (p = 0.0184) did not alter this pattern appreciably. No association between traumatic police incidents and depression was observed. Results indicate that exposure to multiple negative life events is significantly associated with elevated depression scores among this sample. Police agencies should consider developing psychological assistance efforts to help affected officers cope with these events and deal with depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Police / statistics & numerical data*