Risk and protective factors for post-traumatic stress among New Zealand police personnel: a cross sectional study

Document Type


Publication Date


Originally Published In

Policing: An International Journal

Volume Number


Issue Number


Page Numbers




The purpose of this research was to examine which factors increase the risk of post-traumatic stress in police officers to assist with identifying strategies that will minimize its occurrence.


This study of constabulary and non-constabulary members of the New Zealand Police has been based on an 80-question electronic survey, which was sent to all serving, resigned and retired members of the New Zealand Police Association, which number approximately 18,000. The survey included a series of questions that measured the post-traumatic stress that participants experienced.


Variables associated with post-traumatic stress were examined using logistic regression modeling techniques. The study found that post-traumatic stress was prevalent among serving, resigned and retired police members and exposure to trauma, especially prolonged exposure, was significantly associated with post-traumatic stress. More than 49% of participants were found to have some post-traumatic stress symptoms and more than 14% of participants indicated a presumptive clinical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress.

Research limitations/implications

The limitations of the research included not include questions relating to the Social Provisions Scale (SPS) and General Health Questionnaire, nor did it include police officer recruits. A further limitation was that it was a cross-sectional study.


An understanding as to which variables influence or increase post-traumatic stress disorder is important for police officers and the police institution. The findings from this study indicate that exposure to trauma is strongly associated with high levels of post-traumatic stress, while good sleep and relaxation decrease the influence of such variables.