Depression and anxiety in policework: a systematic review

Depression and anxiety in policework: a systematic review

Published 25th September 2019

Shannon Wagner, Nicole White, Lynda R. Matthews, Christine Randall, Cheryl Regehr, Marc White, Lynn E. Alden, Nicholas Buys et al 


The purpose of this systematic review is to evaluate the extant literature on depression and anxiety disorders in police using a multinational data set to determine whether the prevalence of these trauma-related disorders (TRMDs) is elevated in comparison to the general population.

Design/methodology/approach: Systematic review was employed in combination with best-evidence narrative synthesis to evaluate these hypotheses.

Findings: Despite wide variability in prevalence outcomes across the literature, strong evidence supports the hypothesis that the prevalence of depression is elevated in police, whereas moderate evidence supports the same hypothesis regarding anxiety. Preliminary evaluation of commonly examined predictive factors for each disorder demonstrated weak and inconsistent associations between these TRMDs and sociodemographic factors. No studies evaluated the relationship between incident-related factors (e.g. severity or frequency of exposure) and TRMDs, thus, at present, the literature on police is almost entirely unable to address the question of whether the prevalence of these disorders in police is influenced by exposure to work-related trauma.

Research limitations/implications: The findings highlight a critical need for future work to address incident-related factors in predicting symptoms of depression and anxiety in police samples to determine whether these disorders bear a unique relationship to work-related traumatic exposure. Such work will significantly benefit the design and implementation of successful prevention and intervention strategies in the workplace.

Originality/value: The present review provides a comprehensive synthesis of a highly variable literature, highlighting critical gaps in our current knowledge of TRMDs in police and suggesting numerous avenues for future study.


Publication Type

Journal Article