Year : 2015  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 56--60

Sources of occupational stress in the police personnel of North India: An exploratory study

Shweta Singh, Sujita Kumar Kar 
 Department of Psychiatry, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Correspondence Address:
Sujita Kumar Kar
Department of Psychiatry, King George«SQ»s Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh


Background: Police personnel in India are subjected to several distinct occupational stressors which impact their mental health and their work performance negatively. Aim: The study aimed to explore various sources of stress among police personnel. Method: In this study, 100 constables, 100 inspectors and 100 police officers of Uttar Pradesh, were evaluated using the occupational stress questionnaire. This was subjected to the quantitative as well as the qualitative analysis. Result: Occupational stress was commonly perceived among all police personnel, but the major attributes of stress in various groups were diverse.

How to cite this article:
Singh S, Kar SK. Sources of occupational stress in the police personnel of North India: An exploratory study.Indian J Occup Environ Med 2015;19:56-60

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Singh S, Kar SK. Sources of occupational stress in the police personnel of North India: An exploratory study. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 May 19 ];19:56-60
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Stress is a complex phenomenon. An individual's experience of stress depends upon numerous aspects related to personality, environment, sociocultural situation, and several contextual factors. Occupational stress is a matter of concern in the current scenario. Occupational stress results in disruption of the psychological as well as physiological homeostasis of the individual, leading to deviant functioning in the working environment. [1]

Police personnel play a pivotal role in maintaining the disciplinary and legislative homeostasis of the society. Stress among police personnel is being acknowledged as an international phenomenon of serious concern. [2],[3],[4],[5]

In addition to the nature of job, there are numerous other issues like long and unpredictable working hours, constant pressure to perform, accountability, work overload and noxious physical environment. [6],[7] In India, research work related to stress in police began about a decade back. Media, many a time highlights about the impact of occupational stress on physical as well as mental health, which also attracts the attention of researchers to study this domain in detail. [8] In India, sociopsychological studies and surveys on "police stress" have been largely focused on experiences of job stress, job satisfaction, impact of geographic & cultural variation on occupational stress among police personnel. [9]

As per the National Crime Record Bureau 2011 statistics, Uttar Pradesh report 12.9% of total crimes in India, which is the highest by any state or union territory in India. [10] Similarly, Uttar Pradesh also report the highest number of violent crimes (Murder, attempted murder, Kidnapping, and abduction) in the country and second highest number of robbery cases in the country. [10] A psychological study conducted in Uttar Pradesh reported that with a decline in stress the mental health improved with higher levels of work motivation. [2]

Indian police personnel can be broadly categorized into constables, inspectors, and officers. The constables belong to the lowest strata; they obey commands of inspectors/sub-inspectors and impart assigned duties as part of police work. The inspectors are placed at the intermediatelevel; they are expected to investigate cases and registered first information report. They are also responsible for the law and order situation in their area of jurisdiction and the supervision of work at the police station. The officers (e.g., Circle Officers [Cos], Superintendent of Police [SP], Assistant Superintendent of Police [ASP], and Senior Superintendent of Police [SSP]) entertain administrative control over crime and law-and-order situation of the town. They also take care of public complaints and grievances and supervise the work of policemen subordinate to them.

Considering the differences in the work pattern of various police echelons, many suggest of possible differences in their experience of occupational stress. For instance, Vinayak (2001) found upper-rank officers to have higher stress than the lower rank officers. [9]

We recognize that although there is a compilation of work in the west, unfortunately, in our own region besides a few sociological surveys, the psychological research work on police stress has been meager. Nevertheless before studying the socio-cultural facts of our country we need to investigate the grass root realities of police stress in state level, Uttar Pradesh which is one of the largest, most populous, diverse and, above all, the most politically important state. Therefore in the present study attempt was made to explore various sources of stress for the constables, inspectors and officers of Uttar Pradesh.


In this study the respondents were 300 male police personnel of Uttar Pradesh (100 constables, 100 inspectors and 100 officers), incidentally selected from the Police Departments of six districts of Uttar Pradesh (Lucknow, Meerut, Noida, Varanasi, Raibareilly and Ghazipur). The category of officers comprised of COs, ASPs, SPs, and SSPs, whereas the category of inspectors also included sub-inspectors.

After receiving the consent for participation in the study the respondents were given individual appointments for responding to the occupational stress questionnaire (OSQ). For the purpose of qualitative analysis, 10 open-ended questions were developed after taking feedback from police personals of different categories through interviews focusing on occupational stress.


Occupational stress questionnaire

The OSQ developed and standardized by Gmelch and Chan, was used to assess the level of stress among police personnel. This questionnaire comprises of 78 items. [11] It has five areas namely (a) private life (e.g., I cannot find time to complete my projects at home), (b) environmental (e.g., my office is unorganized and too crowded), (c) organizational (e.g., overload-there is constant pressure to work every minute, with little opportunity to relax; underload my job is seldom challenging; job ambiguity-I am not sure how much authority I have; organizational structure-The central office is unreceptive to the needs at the building level; role conflict-I often have difficulty deciding between high productivity and high quality; managing people-I often have to consult other people before making a decision; travel away from the organization-I commute long distances to and from work), (d) interpersonal (e.g., there often seems to be a lack of trust between myself and my staff) and (e) personal (e.g., I often feel that I have not met my life's ambitions because of my own inadequacies) stress. The questionnaire is scored simply by counting the number of responses indicating agree and disagree. The reliability of OSQ was determined by computing split-half method. The area wise and overall reliability ranged between 0.92, and 0.99. The index of homogeneity and internal validity of individual items tested by computing biserial coefficient of correlation was found to be ranged between 0.46, and 0.59.

Qualitative analysis

The qualitative analysis was conducted to probe various sources of stress as subjectively experienced by police personnel. Using 10 open-ended questions based on the personal experience about various sources of stress by the respondents. The 10 questions framed were as follows:

What are your working hours? How do you find working like that?What do you feel about the level of accountability of your job?Which factors related to the police organization (salary structure, transfers, promotions, facilities provided, subordinates, support from other departments, etc.) are sources of stress for you?What do you feel about fulfilling your role as a police personnel and a family person?How do you find interacting with your seniors, colleagues and juniors professionally as well as socially?Are you satisfied with your working conditions and facilities provided to you?How do you commute to your work place? How often have you to travel out of station officially?Are you able to meet the expectations of your family (time spent, financial, etc.)? How do you feel about it?What are the expectations of your relatives and friends from you? How do you feel about it?Are there any other areas of your profession found stressful by you? Which areas of your profession are most stressful and why? Statistical analysis

The data were analyzed using appropriate statistical tests including analysis of variance to find out the significant difference in terms of various sources of stress in inspectors, constables, and officers.


The age of respondents ranged from 35 to 45 years (M = 40.8 years, SD = 8.10). Their academic qualification ranged from intermediate to post graduation, and their length of service was 10-20 years (M = 16.2 years, SD = 7.50).

[Table 1] revealed means of stress levels (overall and various dimensions) in constables, inspectors, and officers. The findings had indicated that inspectors had the highest level of stress (overall), followed by officers and constables. Although, these differences are not found to be statistically significant; inspectors had significantly higher stress in the domains of private life, organizational structure, and interpersonal stressors. Officers had the highest stress in the domains of management of people and role ambiguity. However, constables were also experiencing the same in the domains of environmental stress, work pressure and traveling [Table 1] and [Table 2]. The findings of the qualitative analysis were based on percentages of constables, inspectors and officers subjectively responding about various sources of occupational stress. The results are being discussed in light of various sources of occupational stress as experienced by the three groups of police personnel.{Table 1}{Table 2}

Stress in inspectors

The major sources of stress emerging for the inspectors were work overload, organizational structure, inter-personal, private and personal stressors [Table 1].

In India, a survey confirms work overload as the second highest job-related stressor. For the inspectors, the work overload is especially in terms of the quantity of work. On the basis of the stress scale responses, we can comment that inspectors feel a sense of urgency about all tasks and that they have a "constant pressure to work every minute with little time to relax". This finding has been corroborated by the findings of the qualitative analysis where 90% of the inspectors work for long and odd hours with a high level of accountability. They describe their job as "unlimited and unpredictable" with "insufficient sleep hours and irregular meals" which renders their lifestyle extremely exhausting and unpredictable. Being the administrative and executive head of their area of jurisdiction, they have to work at the cutting edge level.

The organizational structure deals with the system of organization in terms of hierarchy, decision-making and omnipotence of rules. The inspectors feel extremely stressed up in this area. The qualitative data reveals lots of other facts related to this source of stress such as frequent transfers, slow promotions, fear of suspension, and punishment, difficulty in getting leave sanctions, insufficient staff and dissatisfactory work distribution.

The interpersonal stress also tends have an impact on the inspectors. A classical study conducted at National Aeronautics and Space Administration found that poor relationships due to lack of trust, support and interest in listening may bring about more psychological stress. [12] In terms of qualitative analysis, they express that "the subordinates and fellow officers do not cooperate" and there is a communication gap between them and their seniors. They feel hesitant to share their views with their superiors. The reason inherent in their nature of the job does not give them a chance to get in touch with their colleagues.

The private life stress refers to the expectations imposed by family, friends, community and others in addition to the professional demands. In this category, the inspectors feel mostly that their "family, friends would like them to spend more time with them". The qualitative analysis had revealed that the inspectors faced many private stressors. 40% of them express that their families stay away from them and 75% of them did not get a chance to spend time with them. Moreover, 50% of them felt that their families had high expectations from them.

The inspectors had shown that the personal factors supposed to be related to their temperaments, dispositions, and personality types do matter to a great extent especially when the stress level was high. An inspector with a high level of stress seems to act as a trigger to bring out Type-A personality behavior. [13]

The qualitative data had unfolded slow promotional process as a potent source of stress in inspectors. According to Van Zyl (2003), once employees have been disadvantaged via slow promotional process or any other such occurrence they may develop a permanent feeling of being the victim of the processes and procedures within the organization. [7]

Stress in officers

After inspectors, it was officers who came next in terms of the level of stress [Table 1]. According to the quantitative analysis officers, were shown to be most stressed up in the areas of managing people and ambiguity of roles. Moreover, the qualitative analysis had revealed that they were also highly stressed up in the areas of overload, organizational structure and role conflict.

On the stress scale, they had displayed that managing people had become a tough job for them. Qualitative analysis had illustrated that 35% of officers had faced difficulty in management related issues with seniors in comparison with almost similar percentage of inspectors, that is, 30%; moreover, 25% of them had problem in managing colleagues and 40% of them had faced difficulty in managing the behavior of their subordinates.

Job ambiguity was another source of stress for officers. This stressor had implied that as compared to other groups of officers were not very sure about the scope of their responsibilities and job expectations. For example, they sometimes feel that they were "not sure about how much authority they have".

In addition, qualitative analysis had also shown that 90% of the officers felt stressed up due to high levels of accountability and political interference, 80% of them were stressed due to long and odd work hours, frequent transfers and postings, 70% of them due to change in priorities, due to political shakiness, difficulty in sanctioning of leaves, role conflict between "being family person" versus "police person," adjusting with seniors and not being able to spend time with their family.

Stress in constables

Although constables were found to experience overall stress lesser than inspectors and officers, they were significantly most stressed up in the areas of environmental stress, traveling away from the organization and work overload.

The constables had felt that their work environment was mostly uncomfortable. They had complained of their office being "abnormally noisy, unorganized and too crowded." The qualitative analysis had endorsed these findings as 80% of the constables had felt that at their office the working conditions were very unpleasant due to the absence of indispensable facilities like proper toilets, drinking water, and refreshment.

The physical work environment of these policemen had exposed them to high levels of air pollution and excessive noise (riots, mobs, traffic, etc.) which too were great stressors. The constables tend to be fatigued due to traveling. For example, as evident from the stress scale they had frequently felt that they had to "commute long distances to and from work". Their responses on the interview schedule had unfolded that they were most stressed in this area with 70% of them feeling strained while commuting their work place against 30% of inspectors and 10% of officers. They had to use their own conveyance like bicycles or motorcycles for official purposes for which they were not given allowances promptly.

It was found that workers incapable of doing a unchallenging job may suffer from another kind of work stress known as "rust out syndrome." [14] On the stress scale the constables sometimes felt that their job is "seldom challenging", it is boring and repetitive where their skills and abilities were not utilized and therefore they do not get a "sense of accomplishment". This becomes especially true for constables who are deputed as security personnel or posted as traffic police personnel, where the nature of work is monotonous and passive.

In addition, to these findings the qualitative analysis had revealed that constables felt more hassled than the inspectors and officers due to low salary structure, lack of housing and medical facilities and their inability to fulfill the demands of their families. Policemen were generally never paid nearly what they should be. Moreover there were more than 50% of constables who sense their work hours as very long, they had to go for two work shifts consecutively and they were unable to spend time with their families. They also face difficulty in adjusting with their bosses who were usually inspectors. They often feel that they were punished by their seniors without any proper enquiry and did not have any platform where they can express themselves.

The study implies that the society as a whole including the police personnel themselves need to become responsive toward the increasing levels of stress in the police and make efforts at the various levels to reduce various sources of stress which are unique to each echelon. The workshops can be very helpful for early identification of policemen who are more vulnerable to stress, so that appropriate counseling and psychotherapy are imparted.

The future research should focus upon research design and statistical technique which can determine nature and direction of the causal relationships between the variables. Similarly, personality variables in this context should be accounted in future using appropriate measures.


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