How healthy are the police? A survey of life-style factors


  • Robyn L. Richmond,

  • Alex Wodak,

  • Linda Kehoe,

  • Nick Heather


Aims. To examine the prevalence of five life-style behaviours among New South Wales police. Design. A cross-sectional survey using a self-administered questionnaire. Setting and participants. A total of 852 police were recruited from metropolitan Sydney. Measurements. Prevalence related to age and sex of self-reported alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, inadequate exercise, perception of overweight and stress symptoms. Results. A high level (89%) of participation was achieved in the survey. Almost half (48%) of males and more than two-fifths (40%) of females consumed alcohol excessively including continuous hazardous or harmful consumption and binge drinking. Excessive drinking was more prevalent among younger police. There were 8% of male and 15% of female police who reported that they did not drink alcohol. Over one-quarter (27%) of male and one-third (32%) of female respondents reported smoking. Almost half (46%) of men and women (47%) believed that they were overweight. More than one-fifth (21%) of men and less than one-quarter (24%) of women reported that they did not exercise. Finally, 12% of men and 15% of women reported feeling moderate to severe symptoms of stress. Conclusions. The police work-force offers an opportunity to screen for a large number of healthy, young and high risk individuals (particularly men) who are hard to reach in other settings and who rarely visit their general practitioner. A sizeable majority (83%) of NSW police had at least one unhealthy life-style behaviour with 19% reporting 3-5 unhealthy factors. The high prevalence of excessive alcohol consumption among police is of particular concern. More active health promotion and provision of brief interventions among police may reduce morbidity and mortality associated with unhealthy life-styles.