New Hope for Correctional Officers: An Innovative Program for Reducing Stress and Health Risks

Abstract

This study investigated the impact of a new stress management program on physiological and psychological stress and health risk factors among 75 correctional officers. The experimental group received training in emotion self-regulation techniques intended to reduce stress and health risk factors. Practice of the techniques was enhanced by heart rate variability feedback, which helped participants learn and sustain use of the self-management tools. Measures of physiological stress included cortisol, DHEA, cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose levels, 10-min resting electrocardiogram, heart rate variability, and blood pressure. Three psychological questionnaires assessed emotional stress and work-related variables. There were significant improvements in the experimental group in cholesterol, glucose, heart rate, blood pressure and positive outlook and significant reductions in overall psychological distress. There were significant increases in productivity, motivation, goal clarity, and perceived support. The mean difference between pre- and post-intervention projected health care costs was calculated to be $1,179 per employee per year.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Since this study was conducted, the Freeze-Framer system has been upgraded and renamed the emWave PC.

  2. 2.

    A full correlation analysis for each group, at baseline and post-intervention, of the relationship between the physiological and the psychological variables produced few significant relationships of note and so has not been presented here.

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Acknowledgments

The research project on which this paper is based, “Impact of the Power to Change Performance Program on Stress and Health Risks in Correctional Officers,” was financially supported by the State of California Commission on Correctional Peace Officer Standards and Training (CPOST).

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Correspondence to Rollin McCraty.

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McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., Lipsenthal, L. et al. New Hope for Correctional Officers: An Innovative Program for Reducing Stress and Health Risks. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 34, 251 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-009-9087-0

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Keywords

  • HRV
  • Heart rate variability
  • Stress
  • Correctional officers
  • Health risk