Major strides have been made to combat the effects of first responder stress. Increased focus on the issue shows that both the immediate impact of a critical incident and the cumulative effects of long-term stress can negatively affect police officers’ personal and professional lives.
Alarmingly, one study showed officers’ life expectancy is about 22 years less than the U.S. general population — the causes are varied but often stress-related. The grief, loss of companionship, and financial burden associated with the early death of an officer has a lasting and irreplaceable effect on their spouse, children, and other family members.
Law enforcement stress can come from several sources. Some are external, such as high-speed car chases, foot pursuits, and gunfights. Surprisingly, other stressors are internal, originating from within the organization. These include internal affairs investigations, unacknowledged work, the constant scrutiny of police work, short staffing, mandatory overtime, agency bureaucracy, and scheduling. Organizational stressors occur with more frequency and, according to some research, may negatively impact police officers more than external, operational ones.