Life Expectancy in Police Officers: A Comparison with the U.S. General Population


Int J Emerg Ment Health. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2016 Feb 1.

Published in final edited form as:

Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2013; 15(4): 217–228.


John M. Violanti, PhD, Tara A. Hartley, PhD, MPA, MPH, Ja K. Gu, MSPH, Desta Fekedulegn, PhD, Michael E. Andrew, PhD, MA, and Cecil M. Burchfiel, PhD, MPH

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Policing in the United States presently consists of over 883,000 sworn officers and is projected to rise to 968,000 officers by 2018 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/). Previous epidemiological research indicates that police officers have an increased risk for death above that of the general population from many types of disease. Vena, Violanti, Marshall, and Fiedler (1986) found that city of Buffalo, NY police officers had increased rates for arteriosclerotic heart disease, digestive cancers, cancers of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues, brain cancer, and esophageal cancer. Feuer and Rosenman (1986)reported that police and firefighters in New Jersey had significantly increased proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) for arteriosclerotic heart disease, digestive and skin cancers, and skin diseases. Demers, Heyer and Rosenstock (1992) compared police and firefighters in three cities in the U.S. and found police to have higher rates for all causes of death combined. Forastiere, Perucci, DiPietro, Miceli, Rapiti, Bargagli, and Borgia(1994) studied a cohort of urban policemen in Rome, Italy, and found increased death rates for ischemic heart disease in officers less than 50 years of age [Standardized Mortality Ratio (SMR)=1.63], colon cancer (SMR=1.47), bladder cancer (SMR=1.27), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (SMR=1.51), and melanoma (SMR=2.34). Bladder cancer death rates were significantly increased for patrol car drivers (odds ratio (OR) =5.14) and kidney cancer for motorcycle officers (OR=2.27).


Violanti, Vena, and Petralia (1998) examined a 40-year police cohort of 2,593 officers (1950-1990). Results suggest that police officers have higher mortality rates from specific diseases and on average die earlier than the U.S. general population. Mortality from all causes of death combined was significantly higher [SMR =1.10; 95% confidence interval (CI) =1.04-1.17] than the U.S. general population. Mortality from arteriosclerotic heart disease was slightly yet significantly elevated (SMR=1.20; 95% CI=1.01-1.43) in officers with 10-19 years of service and represented the majority of excess deaths among diseases of the circulatory system. The average age of death for officers was 66 years of age.


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