Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress study: An exploratory analysis of post-traumatic stress, depression, metabolic syndrome and salivary cortisol
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Chronic stress has been hypothesized to lead to depression, as well as a multitude of medical ailments. It is postulated that stress, depression, and metabolic syndrome exhibit the potential to share a common pathway through disordered cortisol production and/or regulation. Furthermore, chronic stress can lead to changes in cortisol responses, which in turn permits allostatic overload to occur within the body and the brain. There is also evidence that the source of stress can be occupationally related, in addition to the stressors of everyday life. Certain occupational groups are more frequently exposed to stressors in the work place, as is the case of the active duty police officer. Occupational stressors can place police officers at increased risk for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study, a population-based occupational cohort study of Buffalo, New York police officers, was undertaken to evaluate the psychological and physiological health of the officers. This current study will cross-sectionally evaluate the effects of (1) chronic stress (PTSD) through self-reported ratings scales on salivary cortisol measures, (2) depression through self-reported ratings scales on salivary cortisol, and (3) an examination of the number of constituent parameters contained within the diagnostic criterion of metabolic syndrome on cortisol responses within participants in this occupational cohort. To date, no previous literature could be identified that examined these three variables in conjunction with salivary cortisol in an occupational cohort of currently employed police officers. Previously published BCOPS studies have demonstrated overall rates of depression and post-traumatic stress that are significantly higher than rates experienced by the general population. In this current study it is hypothesized that salivary cortisol responses will be dysregulated in those individuals who demonstrate higher levels of post-traumatic stress, depression, and those with dysregulated cortisol a higher legel of parameters that encompass the metabolic syndrome. One hundred officers who participated in the BCOPS baseline study will be included in this investigation of chronic stress, depression, and metabolic syndrome as measured by the biomarker cortisol. A 95% confidence interval and a level of significance at 0.05 will be utilized for ANOVA and ANCOVA testing. BCOPS presents a unique opportunity to study a high risk occupational cohort of police officers, as well as adding to the current body of literature on the mental and bio-physical health effects of police work. The results of this study could be utilized as the basis for developing stress management programs that could be utilized within the occupational group of police officers. Furthermore, these results will serve to inform the larger police cohort study which is currently being planned to include the entire Buffalo, New York police force.