Associations between Psychological Distress and Body Mass Index among Law Enforcement Officers: The National Health Interview Survey 2004-2010

Biostatistics and Epidemiology Branch, Health Effects Laboratory Division, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morgantown, WV, USA.
Safety and Health at Work 03/2013; 4(1):52-62. DOI: 10.5491/SHAW.2013.4.1.52
Source: PubMed


To investigate the association between psychological distress and obesity among law enforcement officers (LEOs) in the United States.
Self-reported data on psychological distress based on six key questions were obtained from LEOs who participated in the National Health Interview Survey (2004-2010). We used Prochaska's cut-point of a Kessler 6 score ≥ 5 for moderate/high mental distress in our analysis. Mean levels of body mass index (BMI) were compared across three levels of psychological distress.
The average age of LEOs (n = 929) was 39.3 years; 25% were female. Overall, 8.1% of LEOs had moderate or high psychological distress; 37.5% were obese (BMI ≥ 30). Mean BMI increased with increasing psychological distress (no distress, BMI = 27.2 kg/m(2); mild distress, 27.6 kg/m(2); and moderate/high distress, 33.1 kg/m(2); p = 0.016) after adjustment for age, race, income, and education level among female officers only. Physical activity modified the association between psychological distress and BMI but only among male LEOs (interaction p = 0.002). Among male LEOs reporting low physical activity, psychological distress was positively associated with BMI (30.3 kg/m(2) for no distress, 30.7 for mild distress, 31.8 for moderate/high distress; p = 0.179) after adjustment, but not significantly. This association was not significant among males reporting high physical activity.
Mean BMI significantly increased as psychological distress increased among female LEOs. A longitudinal study design may reveal the directionality of this association as well as the potential role that physical activity might play in this association.

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    • "There are mixed findings in regard to the relationship between obesity and depression; however, the majority of the research has pointed to a direct relationship between depressive symptoms and obesity [21]. In a large nationally representative survey with police officers, results showed that psychological distress, defined as the presence of depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and/or fatigue , was associated with increased BMI among women officers in general, and among men officers reporting low physical activity [22]. Additionally, in a sample of firefighters, depression was associated with increased alcohol abuse as well as with increased sleep disruptions [4]. "
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