Assessment of a prevention program for work-related stress among urban police officers

  • Bengt B. Arnetz
  • Eamonn ArbleEmail author
  • Lena Backman
  • Adam Lynch
  • Ake Lublin
Original Article



To determine the efficacy of a primary prevention program designed to improve psychobiological responses to stress among urban police officers.


A random sample of 37 police cadets received complementary training in psychological and technical techniques to reduce anxiety and enhance performance when facing a series of police critical incidents. Training was done by Special Forces officers, trained by the authors in imaging. A random sample of 38 cadets, receiving training as usual, was followed in parallel. Assessment of somatic and psychological health, and stress biomarkers, was done at baseline, immediately following training, and after 18 months as regular police officers. Comparison was done using two-way repeated analysis of variance (ANOVA) and logistic regression.


The intervention group improved their general health and problem-based coping as compared to the control group. They also demonstrated lower levels of stomach problems, sleep difficulties, and exhaustion. Training was associated with an OR of 4.1 (95% CI, 1.3–13.7; p < 0.05) for improved GHQ scores during the study as compared to no changes or worsening score.


This first primary prevention study of high-risk professions demonstrates the validity and functional utility of the intervention. Beneficial effects lasted at least during the first 2 years on the police force. It is suggested that preventive imagery training in first responders might contribute to enhanced resiliency.


Critical incident First responder GHQ Psychosomatic Resiliency 



The authors would like to thank the participating police cadets and officers, the management of the Police Academy of Solna and the Stockholm Police Department, as well as representatives of the Special Forces who made this study possible by volunteering their time and expertise. This research was financed by the Swedish Work Environment Fund (currently, Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research), project reference numbers 91-0734 and 94-1782. Dr. Arnetz and Mr. Arble were partially supported by Award Number R34MH086943 from the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Arnetz was furthermore partially supported by a grant from the Swedish Royal Foundation (Kungafonden). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bengt B. Arnetz
    • 1
  • Eamonn Arble
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lena Backman
    • 2
  • Adam Lynch
    • 1
  • Ake Lublin
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Occupational and Environmental HealthWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.Stockholm Centre for Public HealthStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Red Cross HospitalStockholmSweden

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