Why was the study done?
Public safety personnel (PSP) face many stressors as part of their work. Occupational stress, often divided into operational and organizational components, can affect PSP mental health. Much of the current research into PSP mental health has focused on the impact of traumatic and critical incidents. Less research has been done on organizational and interpersonal stressors like lack of organizational support, inconsistent work schedules, inadequate resources, and workload.
Persistent occupational stress has also been linked to anger, which can affect the quality of life of individuals with mental health problems. There is a suggestion from the research that the effects of both occupational stress and anger could be mediated (changed) by individual resilience.
The goal of the current study is:
- to examine the relationship between occupational stress, anger and resiliency in PSP;
- to determine if resiliency plays a mediating role in the relationship between anger and occupational stress.
What was done in the study?
A variety of PSP members (police officers, law enforcement administration and dispatch, firefighters, and police detention workers) from one municipality took a survey that included three self-report measures. The measures were designed to measure six dimensions of occupational stress (role overload, role fit, role ambiguity, role boundary, responsibility, and physical environment), anger, and resilience. Over 200 PSP members completed all the self-report measures.
What did we find out?
- Participants with higher levels of resilience had lower scores on all dimensions of occupational stress except physical environment.
- Participants who had higher levels of occupational stress also showed higher levels of anger.
- Participants with higher levels of resilience had lower anger scores.
- Resiliency mediated the relationship between occupational stress and anger. Specifically, participants with higher occupational stress scores and higher resiliency scores had lower anger scores.
- Compared to a non-PSP sample, participants displayed higher occupational stress and anger levels but lower resiliency levels than their non-PSP counterparts.
Where do we go from here?
This study explored the relationship between occupational stress, resiliency, and anger in a small PSP sample, so we can’t generalize the results. The study’s important takeaway is that there are stressors beyond traumatic events and the physical environment of PSP work that may be affecting PSP mental health. We can also see that high levels of individual resilience may help stop occupational stress from turning into anger which can have serious consequences for PSP mental health. To create lasting improvements in PSP mental health, it is important to research all aspects of the work that may affect mental health.
The original wording of the study was changed and condensed for the current research summary.
Doyle, J.N., Campbell, MA., Gryshchuk, L. (2021). Occupational stress and anger: Mediating effects of resiliency in first responders. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11896-021-09429-y
Summary Prepared by E. Kossick Reviewed & Edited by B. Barootes & J. N. Doyle