Depression and suicidal thoughts among police officers differ based on gender and work shift, according to a recent study co-authored by Bryan Vila, professor of criminal justice and member of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at WSU Spokane. Results appear in the October 2008 edition of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
 
A quarter of female police officers and nearly as many male officers assigned to shift work had thought about taking their own lives, said the study in a report by the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, reports of depressive symptoms among these officers were 12.5 percent among women and 6.2 percent among men, compared to 5.2 percent in the population at large.
 
Unexpected among the findings was the difference between male and female officers when work shifts were analyzed. Policewomen who worked mostly day shifts reported having more suicidal thoughts than female colleagues assigned to work afternoons or nights, while the opposite was true for males.
 
“Most of the women had responsibility for family and child care, in addition to their jobs as police officers, and working the day shift took them away from those important parts of their lives,” noted the authors. “On the other hand, more suicidal thoughts and depression reported by males on the midnight shift may be accounted for by isolation from the male bonding that takes place in a predominately male organization.”
 
The study involved 115 officers selected randomly from a 935-officer mid-sized urban police force. A study is planned on the effects of shift work on cancer risk.