Studying Police Recruits’ Emotional Health

A group of researchers in Australia recently conducted a pilot study relating to law enforcement and mindfulness.

The authors of the study, of the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, examined changes in police recruits between becoming trainees to being probationary constables. Of the 592 recruits who completed the initial assessment through a Bachelor of Policing course, 60 completed the follow-up.

According to the study, police aren’t encouraged to show emotions within the law enforcement culture. Research has shown that police become more emotionally detached within 18 months of service. As there’s a large body of research suggesting that detachment from emotions can have detrimental consequences to emotional health, the researchers were interested in the interaction of these variables over time.

Strikingly, police recruits showed an increase in depression and other mental health problems after starting the job. However officers who were more mindful, less likely to suppress thoughts, and more able to identify feelings, showed smaller increases in depression. In fact, of the variables measured by the researchers, low mindfulness was the strongest predictor of depression. Results suggest that mindfulness and the ability to identify one’s feelings may have a protective factor for police recruits.


Scientific Mindfulness blog post about the study

Study Abstract