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The Danish Center of Psychotraumatology

Sara Møller

PhD student


Project title: ARE YOU ALRIGHT?

Project description:


The project ARE YOU ALRIGHT?  (AYA) aims to investigate exposure to potentially traumatic events in the profession as a police officer and links to the development of mental health problems and sickness absence. Factors in the work environment that are important for the development of mental health problems are identified in order to support the development of preventive measures in the workplace. Based on a prospective cohort study of Danish police officers, the project aims to 1) map the extent and nature of stressful events in daily work, 2) describe the psychological consequences of repeated stressful events at work, 3) uncover the relationship between stressful events at work and sickness absence/sickness presenteeism, 4) identify key work environment factors that may be protective or aggravating for the development of mental disorders.

Working as a police officer involves regular exposure to events that can be violent or overwhelming such as deaths, violence and road traffic accidents. When these events occur repeatedly on the job, it can lead to the development of mental health symptoms such as PTSD and increased sickness absence for the individual officer. This will have consequences for both the individual officer and the entire department, as sickness absence will increase the overall task pressure. However, the violent incidents at work can also have more hidden consequences, where officers maintain their presence at work despite feeling unhappy and having a reduced level of function - the so-called sickness presenteeism. Sickness absence results in poorer quality of task fulfilment and a reduced ability to receive and provide the necessary collegial support and encouragement. Exposure to violent incidents while working as a police officer can thus be a risk factor for the development of serious psychopathology, reduce the quality of daily work and lead to greater personal, organisational and financial costs over time.

Methods and focus:
The AYA survey covers the entire Danish police force, including police officers in Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Prospective survey data is collected over a 3-year period starting in spring 2021. Data is collected via email-based questionnaires questionnaires consisting of both a comprehensive questionnaire package sent out at baseline (March 2021) and at 1, 2 and 3-year follow-up, as well as shorter measurements every 3 months covering exposure to traumatic events and current mental health status. Survey data is paired with workplace register data on sick leave.

The project will make a significant contribution to a better understanding of the consequences of frequent exposure to violent incidents in police work. Not only will this knowledge prove to be an important step in ensuring mental well-being among Danish police officers, but the project will also contribute to knowledge that can support the development of preventive measures in the workplace. Furthermore, the results from the project will be used in the development of workplace strategies that focus on screening and health assessments when officers are exposed to potential traumatic incidents. The results of this study are expected to identify early warning signs and specific conditions in police work that are related to a higher risk of developing mental health problems. Furthermore, knowledge of how and when exposure to traumatic events causes mental health problems may also have implications for subsequent psychological treatment. The results of this study are relevant for other occupational groups where repeated exposure to traumatic events is part of daily work, such as firefighters or rescue workers.


Start date and expected end date: 01/02/2021-01/02/2025

Main supervisor: Jesper Pihl-Thingvad

Co-supervisors: Nina Beck Hansen, Ask Elklit

Research group: Project responsible: Ask Elklit, Professor and Psychologist, Department of Psychology, SDU Project manager: Nina Beck Hansen, Associate Professor, PhD and Psychologist, Department of Psychology, SDU PhD student: Sara Rosenbeck Møller, former police assistant, psychologist and PhD student, Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, OUH. Data manager: Jesper Pihl-Thingvad, Associate Professor, PhD and Senior Psychologist, Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, OUH Statistical supervisor: Lars L. Andersen, Professor, National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NFA). Financial manager: Lars Brandt, Senior Consultant, Associate Professor and PhD, Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, OUH

Collaboration partners: Danish National Police

Funding: Arbejdsmiljøforskningsfonden

Keywords: Police, trauma exposure, critical incidents, PTSD, mental health problems, working environment, risk factors, protective factors, sick leave, sick presenteeism

Employee Sarah Møller