Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption among Police Officers
Police occupy an important position within the community as both enforcers of the law and as role models for appropriate behavior. Despite this interesting juxtaposition, research has shown that they may consume alcohol and tobacco at rates higher than the general population. A significant causal factor is occupational stress, and the fact that police are regularly exposed to stressors beyond the range of normal human experiences. Given this ongoing and unavoidable relationship, the recognition and control of stress is paramount within law enforcement. Because police stressors are usually multi-faceted, health promotion interventions should focus on stress-reduction at both the institutional and individual level. Examples of health promotion strategies may include reducing overtime, carefully organizing shift rosters, streamlining administrative processes and allowing rest breaks for those on the night-shift. Interventions which focus on the individual are also important, because excess alcohol and tobacco consumption levels often relate to individual stress-coping mechanisms. Programs to help recognize and prevent excess alcohol and tobacco consumption may be worthwhile, as too, counseling, interpersonal support and critical incident debriefing. Promoting non-drinking and non-smoking stress-reduction activities where police can socialize and de-brief with their colleagues may be beneficial. Encouraging social events at sports clubs and gymnasiums has also been suggested. In order to achieve these goals however, governments will need to place a greater emphasis on the occupational health of police officers and the law enforcement agencies in which they work.