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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 73-78
 

A Study of stress, coping, social support, and mental health in police personnel of Uttar Pradesh


1 Department of Psychiatry, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Psychology, University of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission28-Aug-2018
Date of Acceptance31-Jan-2019
Date of Web Publication25-Sep-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Bandna Gupta
Department of Psychiatry, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijoem.IJOEM_184_18

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  Abstract 


Background: Presence of enormous stress gives birth to a higher prevalence of mental health difficulties. Globally, the job of police personnel is full of stress. Coping strategies and social support have a crucial role to play in the management of stress and mental health. Objective: The objective of this study was to study stress, social support, coping, and mental health in the police personnel of Uttar Pradesh. Methodology: The sample comprised 300 male police personnel including 100 constables, 100 inspectors, and 100 officers being incidentally selected from six districts of Uttar Pradesh viz. Lucknow, Varanasi, Meerut, Raibareilly, Ghazipur, and Noida. The mean age of the sample was 40 years and average experience of 15 years of police service. They were assessed by using Occupational Stress Questionnaire (OSQ, Gmelch and Chan, 1994), Brief COPE Scale (Carver, 1997), Social Support Scale (Cohen et al. 1985), and Mental Health Inventory (Jagdish and Srivastava, 1983). The results obtained were analyzed statistically, the mean score was calculated, and the independent t-test was applied. Results: Among the police personnel, inspectors scored highest mean occupational stress score (39.89 ± 13.17) with the lowest mean score of active coping (17.40 ± 7.37), adaptive coping (23.81 ± 8.59), and the highest mean score in maladaptive coping (21.43 ± 7.89). Mental health of inspectors was most adversely affected with highest mean score (97.81 ± 24.49). Conclusion: The study concludes that the amount of stress experienced by all echelons of police is extremely high and almost of similar level except for inspectors showing highest among the three groups, thus emphasizing the use of healthy coping mechanisms and modification in work environment promoting health and well-being.


Keywords: Coping strategies, mental health, police personnel, social support, stress


How to cite this article:
Singh S, Gupta B, Sharma D, Mishra PC. A Study of stress, coping, social support, and mental health in police personnel of Uttar Pradesh. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2019;23:73-8

How to cite this URL:
Singh S, Gupta B, Sharma D, Mishra PC. A Study of stress, coping, social support, and mental health in police personnel of Uttar Pradesh. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Oct 16];23:73-8. Available from: http://www.ijoem.com/text.asp?2019/23/2/73/267752





  Introduction Top


In this “stress age,” the impact of stress caused by work is spiraling out of control. Researchers attempted to define occupational or job-related stress. Occupational or job-related stress refers to “a situation wherein job-related factors interact with the worker to change his or her psychological and/or physiological condition such that the person is forced to deviate from normal functioning.” It suggests that the effect of job-related stress can be multifactorial (psychological or physiological or both).[1] Investigations on the influence of occupational stress on mental health reveal that stress is detrimentally related to various aspects of mental health like feelings of self-esteem, accomplishment, personal effectiveness, success, and happiness in life.[2],[3]

Coping strategies are defined as “perceptual, cognitive or behavioral responses that are used to manage, avoid or control situations regarded as difficult or stressful.[4] Coping strategies can be divided into active, adaptive, and maladaptive strategies. The relationships between stress, mental health, and coping strategies can be best understood by using classical models of stress and mental health. The psychological model by Cox hypothesizes that when there is prolonged exposure to stress and the coping is not effective, it may affect the mental health of the person as high levels of stress have the potential to cause functional and structural changes within the individual.[5]

Globally, stress among police personnel is faced as an alarming challenge.[6],[7] The job of police personnel has many challenges and adversities in the form of long duty hours with inadequate facilities at the workplace, long distance traveling without proper time and place to rest, and an excessive burden of work and accountability.[8] Likewise, inadequate policies and procedures of law enforcement, poor salary structure, and slow promotional processes make police job all the more stressful.[9],[10],[11]. As an offshoot of police stress, ample of psychological research work conducted throughout the world reveal many mental health troubles in the form of anxiety, depression, aggression, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, and higher suicidal rates in policemen.[8],[10],[12],[13],[14],[15] In our country, police personnel in each district are designated as constables, inspectors, and officers starting from the lower rank and moving towards the higher level. The difference in role, responsibility, and work profile of these three groups of police personnel pose them to different levels of work-related stress.[8] At the district field level, Indian police personnel can be broadly categorized into constables, inspectors, and officers. Looking at the differences in the work pattern of various police echelons, many suggest of differences in their experience of occupational stress.[8] A recent study conducted on Central Industrial Security Force has revealed that personnel posted in stressful areas and the rank of constables perceived more stress and psychiatric morbidity compared with those posted in nonstressful areas.[16] A recent study on police personnel showed that the relationship between work characteristics and mental health outcomes was mediated by perceived stress.[17] Job satisfaction mediated the relationship between positive work characteristics and depression. Many recent Indian studies also emphasize the positive role of active and adaptive coping. Rao and Singh emphasized the role of coping in police stress and well-being by using correlational research.[18]

Keeping in view the impact of occupational stress on mental health for police personnel, this piece of research has attempted to investigate stress, coping strategies, social support, and mental health in police personnel in the state of Uttar Pradesh.


  Materials and Methods Top


Sample and study design

The sample was drawn from police department of six districts of Uttar Pradesh. Thus, the sample comprised 300 male police personnel including 100 constables, 100 inspectors (inspectors and sub-inspectors), and 100 officers (Circle Officers [COs] and all officers of the rank Superintendent of Police [SP]). This was a cross-sectional study.

Measures

Occupational Stress Questionnaire (OSQ) developed by Gmelch and Chan is a reliable and valid instrument and used to assess the stress level among police personnel.[19] There are 78 items, however, in this study; 4 items were deleted from the original questionnaire as they were not culturally suitable and appropriate to our context. It has five areas, namely private life, environmental, organizational, interpersonal, and personal stress. The responses are given dichotomously in the form of agree and disagree. For agree, 1 score is given, and for disagree, 0 score is given for each of the 74 items. The higher score indicates a high level of stress and vice versa. Overall, the reliability of the questionnaire range between 0.92 and 0.99 and validity of individual item range from 0.46 to 0.59.

Brief COPE Scale by Carver was used to assess the coping strategies of police personnel.[20] The scale consists of 28 items used. In this study, three strategies of coping were used: (a) active strategies, namely active coping, planning, and positive reframing; (b) adaptive strategies, namely acceptance, humor, religion, using emotional support, and self distractions; (c) maladaptive strategies, namely denial, venting, substance abuse, behavioral disengagement, and self blame. Response options in the scale range from 1 (I have not been doing this at all) to 4 (I have been doing this a lot). The responses are scored accordingly. Reliability was determined using Cronbach's alpha. It was 0.602, significant at 0.001 levels. Content validity of the Hindi version of the scale was authenticated by professionals.

Social support scale by Cohen and Wills was used to measure the level of social support.[21] There are three areas in which social support is measured: tangible support, appraisal support, and belonging support. The tangible subscale measures perceived availability of material aid, the appraisal subscale measures perceived availability of confident and trusted advisor, and the belonging subscale measures perceived availability of someone with whom the respondent could socialize and relax. The scale has 15 items, 5 in each area. There are nine positive and six negative items. The response alternatives are: completely true, somewhat true, somewhat false, and completely false.

Mental Health Inventory (MHI) was used to assess the level of mental health of the police personnel.[22] This inventory consists of 56 statements with four alternative responses, namely always, mostly, seldom, and never. The possible score for each item is ranged from 1 to 4. The reliability of MHI determined by computing split half method was found to be 0.73 as a whole. Construct validity determined by computing the coefficient of correlation between mental health inventory and personal adjustment was found to be 0.57.[23]

Procedure

A brief pilot study was conducted in Lucknow to determine the characteristics of the sample that included age range, the categories based on job hierarchy, income range, and years of service. In the main study, the respondents were incidentally selected from the identified areas. They were contacted at their workplace and were informed about the purpose of the study. After receiving their consent for participation in the study, they were given appointments at the individual level for responding to the questionnaire.

Data analysis

The results were obtained by analyzing the data statistically in terms of means, and variables (stress, coping strategies, social support, and mental health) were compared among the three groups of police personnel using the independent t-test.


  Results Top


The mean age of the sample was 40.8 ± 8.10 years and mean duration of service was 16.2 ± 7.50 years. Most of the participants were educated ranging from intermediate to post-graduation. In this study, the between-group t-tests were conducted between the mean scores of occupational stress, coping strategies, social support, and mental health of the three groups of police personnel, namely constables, inspectors, and officers. The means shown by [Table 1] indicate that inspectors have the highest level of stress (39.89 ± 13.17) followed by officers (37.03 ± 16.22) and constables (36.0 ± 12.10) and this difference is statistically significant between inspectors and constables (P = 0.030). [Table 1] depicts that officers utilize the highest level of active coping (21.03 ± 9.49), adaptive coping (26.97 ± 12.19), and the lowest level of maladaptive functioning (18.18 ± 7.29) followed by constables and inspectors. There is a significantly lower level of active coping (P = 0.002) and adaptive coping (P = 0.035) and the highest level of maladaptive coping (P = 0.002) used by inspectors compared with offices and constables. In this study, we have classified “social support” in terms of tangible, appraisal, and belonging support. As apparent from [Table 1], the officers entertain the highest level of overall social support (46.67 ± 15.12) followed by inspectors (44.95 ± 17.10) and constables (40.99 ± 17.10). The difference between officers and constables is statistically significant (P = 0.013). In our study, mental health mean scores revealed that mental health is significantly higher (11.86 ± 35.22) in the officers, followed by constables (101.98 ± 30.49) and inspectors (97.81 ± 24.49).
Table 1: Mean scores of study measures among groups of police personnel and independent t-test between the groups

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  Discussion Top


Stress in police personnel

The inspector is in-charge of the police station of his area and responsible for maintaining law and order in his jurisdiction. Thus, supervision and personal leadership of all his subordinate are required to promote their welfare and discipline. This might explain the highest level of stress found in inspectors in our study. For inspectors, the major sources of stress are work overload, organizational structure, and interpersonal, private, and personal stress.[8] A study in India which majorly included the inspectors found that the organizational, social, and political issues related to their department are more stressful than the environmental and the physical aspects.[24]

The officers (e.g. COs, SP, Assistant SP, and Senior SP) entertain administrative control over crime and law-and-order situation of the town. The officers are shown to be stressed up in the areas of managing people and ambiguity of roles. The constables belong to lowest strata; they obey the commands of inspectors/sub-inspectors and impart assigned duties as part of police work. They are significantly most stressed up in areas of environmental stress, traveling away from the organization, and work overload.[8]

Overall, the nature of job regarding work overload, environmental stressors, traveling away from organizations, organizational structure and role conflict, interpersonal stressors, and private and personal stressors contribute to the stress experienced by the police personnel at the workplace.[8]

Coping strategies in police personnel [Figure 1]

A literature search for stress-coping strategies used by police personnel define effective coping as efficacy with which the individuals deal with their emotional responses to stressors and act to resolve the stressors and “the cost-effectiveness to the individual.”[25] The active coping strategies make use of action-oriented methods and strategies which involve “concentrating one's efforts on doing something about the situation,” “taking action to try to make the situation better,” “planning strategies about what to do,” and “thinking hard about what steps to take.” While using adaptive coping strategies, the person tries positive reframing about the situation by seeing it in a “different light,” “looking good in what is happening,” and “acceptance of the fact that something has happened and one has to live with it.” In contrast, the maladaptive strategies involve passive and avoidant methods, aggression, substance use, behavioral disengagement, self-blame, and denial of reality. Problem-focused coping strategies are found to be superior to emotion-focused strategies as emotionally focused coping often entails avoidance-oriented fantasy and self-blame leading to depression.[26] Poor coping skills appear to be a significant cause behind stress and suicidal thoughts in the police.[15],[27],[28]
Figure 1: Coping strategies in three groups of police personnel

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The officer's exercise of more efficient strategies of coping could be attributed to many favorable coping opportunities associated with higher educational and social background, having a powerful and influential position, availability of various facilities, and good support from social networks. The constables come next regarding using active and adaptive coping methods. The main reason for such a finding could be that there is lesser demand on their coping capacity as their level of stress is the lowest. The reason why inspectors are found to use lower levels of active and adaptive strategies and higher levels of maladaptive coping methods could be the experience of highest levels of stress and work overload in their work profile. Another probable reason could be that they have direct exposure to crime and criminals which agitates them the most.

There is plenty of evidence provided to support the positive role of adaptive and active coping styles and the negative impact of maladaptive coping styles in the stress and mental health link. For instance, Pandey and Srivastava identified that coping strategies related to active and adaptive styles play a buffering role in mitigating work stress–illness connection.[29] A study by Mostert and Joubert, aimed to determine if coping strategies could moderate the relationship between occupational stress and burnout in a sample of police officers, showed that occupational stress because of job demands and a lack of resources leads to burnout. Two coping strategies were identified, namely avoidance coping and approach coping (consisting of active coping, emotional support and turning to religion). Avoidance coping moderated the relationship between occupational stress and burnout approach coping had an independent effect on burnout.[30]

The study by Kaiseler et al. showed that stress appraisal and coping are important variables influencing work engagement among police recruits. Findings suggested that future applied interventions fostering work engagement among police recruits should reinforce perceptions of control over a stressor and active coping strategies.[31]

Social support [Figure 2]

To understand, what contributes to such outcomes, we need to appreciate how the three groups differ regarding various dimensions of social support and work profile. Our finding that overall social support is highest in officers could be explained by the fact that being the highest in the hierarchy, they have highest social acceptance from all strata of society. Because they are influential, they have a large social network and most people are willing to impart various social support and services to them.
Figure 2: Domains of support scales in three groups of police personnel

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Tangible support refers to the material aid that includes one's requests for money, tools, and assistance with a task. The officers are shown to receive the maximum level of tangible support. Most of them are confident that when they are sick or out of town, someone is there for them to look after their house or to take them to doctor, or when they have to stay somewhere in an emergency, someone is here to help them out.

The officers also experience a sense of contentment more than the inspectors and constables regarding having someone with whom they can socialize and relax, receive empathy, trust, and concern, and thus, give them a feeling of “belongingness.” This feeling is also an essential source of emotional support.

The appraisal support refers to the presence of a confident and trusted advisor. The person is given a positive evaluation by the verbal feedback approving the actions which can increase their self-esteem and self-worth. On the measure of social support, the category of inspectors and sub-inspectors is found to receive greater appraisal support followed by officers and constables. The interpersonal stress felt by inspectors is higher than constables and officers. A classical study conducted at NASA found that poor relationships because of a lack of trust, support, and interest in listening may bring about more psychological stress.[29]

Mental health of police personnel

The relationships between stress mental health and coping strategies can be best understood by the classical models of stress and mental health.[32],[33] Studies have shown an inverse relationship between occupational stress and various aspects of mental health like self-esteem, frustration, and powerlessness.[2] There are numerous studies in the area of police stress revealing the effect on mental health in the form of depression, aggression, anxiety, substance abuse, psychosomatic problems, suicidal ideation, and attempt.[13],[34] There are several variables to be considered to explain this difference. The constables are shown to have the lowest levels of stress with a moderate level of active and adaptive coping and moderate use of maladaptive coping than inspectors. The lowest level of mental health in inspectors can be attributed to the highest level of stress experienced by them, with the use of rather lower levels of active and adaptive coping and maximum usage of maladaptive coping. For the inspectors, hence, we can say that the type of coping strategies has been crucial in determining mental health. The officers are noticed with lesser stress than inspectors. They utilize maximum levels of active and adaptive coping strategies that contribute to a better level of mental health than the other two categories.

Limitations

Small sample size limits the generalizability of the study. Selection of the districts was as per the convenience of the investigator. A random selection of the districts might limit the selection bias.


  Conclusion Top


The study concludes that the amount of stress experienced by all echelons of police is extremely high and almost of similar level except for inspectors showing highest among the three groups. Inspectors had highest mean stress score and maladaptive coping scores. They scored poorly in active coping and adaptive coping score, thereby having highest level of stress and poor mental health as compared with officers and constables.

Implication

The study findings lay emphasis on the use of active and adaptive coping strategies for the management of workplace-related stress and promotion of health and well-being in police personnel of our region. Workshops and orientation programmes should be organized at regular intervals for stress management and promoting healthy ways of life like yoga, meditation, and relaxation exercises. The department should plan social get together and other leisure activities to enhance well-being and positivity. This piece of research also encourages initiating future research in the field of stress, coping, and mental health of police personnel of various other regions of the country.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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