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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 67-73  Table of Contents     

Coping strategies and social support as moderators of occupational stress and mental health link among police personnel


1 Department of Psychiatry, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Psychology, University of Lucknow, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission22-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance16-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication17-Jun-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shweta Singh
Department of Psychiatry, King George's Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_207_20

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   Abstract 


Background: The occupation of police personnel is known to be enormously stressful. The occupational stress research shows that coping strategies and social support have a buffering effect on stress and a protective role on mental health. The present research study was set out to investigate the role of coping strategies and social support as moderating factors of the relationship between occupational stress and mental health in police personnel of Uttar Pradesh in terms of their ranking. Methodology: The present cross-sectional study was conducted using standardized questionnaires. The sample comprised a total of 300 male police personnel. Hundred constables, 100 inspectors, and 100 officers were incidentally selected from six districts of Uttar: Lucknow, Varanasi, Meerut, Raebareli, Ghaziabad, and Noida. Results: Study results showed coping strategies and social support to have a moderating effect on the relationship between stress and mental health in inspectors and officers but failed to show such relationship in constables. Conclusion: There is the implication for the training in terms of teaching-specific active and adaptive coping strategies for the management of workplace-related stress and promotion of health and well-being in the police personnel.

Keywords: Coping strategies, mental health, moderators, North India, occupational stress, police personnel, social support


How to cite this article:
Singh S, Gupta B, Mishra P C. Coping strategies and social support as moderators of occupational stress and mental health link among police personnel. Ind Psychiatry J 2021;30:67-73

How to cite this URL:
Singh S, Gupta B, Mishra P C. Coping strategies and social support as moderators of occupational stress and mental health link among police personnel. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Aug 4];30:67-73. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2021/30/1/67/318555



Globally, the occupation of police personnel is known to be enormously stressful.[1],[2] Numerous sources of police stress such as work overload, exposure to aggression, and atrocious crime, unpredictably long hours of working, frequently being under pressure to perform even in adverse circumstances, inadequate policies regarding law and order implementation, low salary structure, and slow promotion procedure are to name some.[3],[4],[5] It is well documented that prolonged exposure to stress causes structural and functional changes in the brain and affects mental health adversely.[6],[7],[8] In light of this, studies on stress and mental health of police personnel report challenges in the form of depression, anxiety, aggression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideas and attempts.[9],[10]

The occupational stress research shows that coping strategies and social support have a buffering effect on stress and a protective role on mental health.[11] Coping strategies are perceptual, behavioral, or cognitive responses used to manage difficult or stressful life situations[12],[13] which are mostly active, adaptive, or maladaptive where active and adaptive coping styles have a positive role. Maladaptive coping techniques negatively impact the stress and mental health link.[14] The coping strategies are utilized based on the context.[15] An association between work stress and coping styles has been shown.[16] Moreover, different sources of job stress require different mechanisms for coping. It was shown that active and adaptive coping strategies play a buffering role in mitigating work stress-illness connection.[17] However, maladaptive style is exercised in tensing role stress-health connections. Moreover, it was found that maladaptive coping strategies were a significant cause behind stress and suicidal thoughts in the police.[18] A study showed that stress appraisal and coping are essential variables influencing police recruits' work engagement.[19] A study in South African police service found that police members with higher scores on approach coping strategies acquire elevated suicide ideation scores.[20] In India, a study found that occupational stress related to low well-being, lack of organizational support led to psychological distress, and emotion-focused coping correlated negatively with well-being.[2] At the same time, problem-focused coping was found positive in enhancing well-being. Social support is a complex phenomenon that incorporates structural and functional components of interpersonal relationships. It is widely associated with a myriad of positive physical and mental health outcomes.[21],[22] Studies in the field of police stress indicate social support to be reduced with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and enhanced with general mental health, increased job satisfaction, and decreased perceptions of organizational stress.[23],[24],[25]

Apart from individual-related factors, the use of social support depends on factors such as the sociocultural structure of society and the rank of police personnel. It has been shown that coping strategies and social support are much more universal in a collectivistic society like South Korea than an individualistic society like the United States.[26] India's unique sociocultural and political scenario, including increasing crime rate, overpopulation, poverty, unemployment, corruption, and unstable political structure, render Indian policing nerve-racking, particularly the Northern Province. A study showed that the upper level seldom used social coping strategies.[1]

At the district field level of India, three police personnel designations exist officially, namely, constables, inspectors, and officers. The three different police designation categories have different roles, responsibilities, and work environments and subsequently report differences in occupational stress experiences. A study on stress, anxiety, coping, strategies, and psychopathology in Jammu and Kashmir's police personnel (Times news' 2001 ), revealed that the upper-rank police officers were found to have higher stress than lower rank officers, namely, inspectors and constables. On the contrary, police personnel of the rank of constables from central industrial security force posted in stressful areas was found to score higher stress and psychiatric morbidity than other police personnel stationed in nonstressful areas.[27] Another study showed that middle-rank police personnel such as inspectors and subinspectors had the highest stress levels than constables and officers.[5]

Various studies are available where coping as a moderator of occupational stress, and psychological well-being is studied among police personnel and other professionals.[28],[29],[30] However, moderating role of coping strategies and social support on the association between stress and mental health in police personnel in terms of their work hierarchy has not been studied in the province of North India. Considering the significance of coping strategies and social support as a significant moderator variable of stress, the present research study was set out to investigate the role of coping strategies and social support as moderating factors of the relationship between occupational stress and mental health in police personnel of Northern Province of India.


   Methodology Top


Study design and sample

The present cross-sectional study was conducted on police personnel of the Northern Province of India. It was part of a large-scale study conducted on stress, coping strategies, and social support as a determinant of Mental Health in Police Personnel.[10] The inspectors, constables, and officers were assessed using standardized questionnaires, and the data collected were subjected to appropriate statistical analysis.

The sample comprised a total of 300 male police personnel. Hundred constables, 100 inspectors, and 100 officers were incidentally selected from six districts: Lucknow, Varanasi, Meerut, Raebareli, Ghaziabad, and Noida. The category of officers included Circle officers, Superintendent of Police, and Senior Superintendent of Police. In contrast, the class of inspectors had subinspectors as well. The age of respondents ranged between 35 and 45 years (mean = 40.8 years, standard deviation [SD] = 8.10). Their academic qualification went between intermediate to postgraduation, and their length of service was 10–20 years (mean = 16.2 years, SD = 7.50).

Measures

Occupational Stress Questionnaire (OSQ) by Gmelch and Chan has been used to assess police personnel stress levels. OSQ comprises 78 items.[31] This questionnaire is scored by the number of responses indicating whether an individual agrees or disagrees with them. The Reliability of this Questionnaire was assessed by the split-half method and ranged between 0.92 and 0.99. The index of homogeneity and internal validity of individual items computed by the biserial coefficient of correlation ranged between 0.46 and 0.59.

Brief COPE Scale by Carver was used to assess the coping strategies of police personnel.[32] The scale consists of 28 items. In the present study, the COPE scale Hindi version developed by Prakash and Mishra in 2004 was used. For the analysis, three categories of coping strategies were used: (a) active strategies, (b) adaptive strategies, and (c) maladaptive strategies. The scale's response options ranged from 1 “I haven't been doing this at all' to 4' I have been doing this a lot.” Cronbach's alpha was used to assess reliability, which was 0.602 (significant at 0.001 levels). Professionals authenticated the content validity of the Hindi version of the scale.

Social support scale (SSS) by Cohen and Wills was used to measure social support.[21] There were three areas in which social support is measured, i.e., Tangible support, Appraisal support, and Belonging support. The scale has 15 items, out of which there are nine positives and six negative things. It has adequate internal and test–retest reliability on the three subscales ranging from 0.77 to 0.92 and from 0.70 to 0.90, respectively.

Mental health inventory (MHI) by Singh and Srivastava was used to assess police personnel's mental health.[33] This inventory has 56 statements with four alternatives, i.e., “always, mostly, seldom, and never.” For each item, the score ranged from one to four. The reliability of this inventory was determined by computing the split-half method, which was 0.73. Construct validity was established by calculating the correlation between MHI and personal adjustment was found to be 0.57.[34]

Procedure

For this study, a brief pilot study was conducted in Lucknow to determine the sample's sociodemographic characteristics including age range, strata of job hierarchy, income, and service years. In the main study, the participants were incidentally selected from the identified districts by the investigators. They were contacted at their workplaces and were explained about the purpose of the study. Upon receiving their consent for participation in the present study, they were given appointments at a mutually convenient time to respond to the questionnaires.

Data analysis

The study results were obtained by analyzing the data statistically in terms of multiple moderated regression analysis to determine the moderating effect of coping strategies and social support on the relationship between stress and mental health.


   Results Top


Multiple moderated regression analyses on the variables of coping strategies and social support as moderators of stress and mental health in constables shown by [Table 1] fail to show the moderating effect of coping strategies and social support on the relationship between stress and mental health.
Table 1: Multiple moderated regression analysis of coping strategies and social support as moderators of stress and mental health in constables

Click here to view


[Table 2] shows that, in inspectors, active coping, appraisal support, and social support total have a partial moderating effect (significant at <0.001) and adaptive coping has a significant moderating effect (significant at <0.001) on the relationship between stress and mental health.
Table 2: Multiple moderated regression analysis of coping strategies and social support as moderators of stress and mental health in inspectors

Click here to view


[Table 3] shows that, in officers, adaptive coping, appraisal support, belonging support, and social support total have a significant moderating effect (significant at <0.001), whereas tangible support has a complete moderating effect (significant at <0.05) on the relationship between stress and mental health.
Table 3: Multiple moderated regression analysis of coping strategies and social support as moderators of stress and mental health in officers

Click here to view



   Discussion Top


The present study aimed to assess the moderating role of coping strategies and social support on the association between stress and mental health in police personnel in the province of North India using the Moderated Regression Analysis. This statistical method is commonly used to detect a variable's moderating effect on the relationship between two other variables that detect interaction effects in surveys and field settings designed to evaluate individual and organizational features. Our study results showed coping strategies and social support to have a moderating effect on the relationship between stress and mental health in inspectors and officers. The primary effect model suggests that coping and social support protect workers from the adverse effects of work stress in two ways. First, coping and social support directly affects psychological well-being, regardless of exposure to stress. In other words, coping and support have a prominent effect on well-being. Second, when coping and social support are high, the adverse effects of work stress on well-being are reduced.[35]

Coping strategies as a moderator of stress and mental health in police personnel

The police stress literature[36] defines successful coping as the efficiency with which the police personnel deal with their emotional reactions to police stress sources and work out for solutions. In our study for inspectors and officers, adaptive coping strategies have a significant moderating effect (at <0.001) on the relationship between stress and mental health. The active coping strategies have a partial moderating effect (at <0.001) on the relationship between stress and mental health in inspectors.

Generally, the active coping strategies use action-oriented methods that involve concentrating one's efforts on doing something about the situation and planning strategies about activities to improve the situation. In adaptive coping strategy, the person tries positive reframing about the situation by seeing it differently, looking for something good during stress and acceptance of what has taken place and learning to live with it. The maladaptive strategies include passive and avoidant measures of coping such as aggression, substance use, disengagement, self-blame, and denial of reality.[32] In our study, maladaptive coping strategies did not significantly affect the relationship between stress and mental health in any of the three police personnel categories.

A previous study indicated that officers employ significantly higher adaptive coping levels, followed by constables and inspectors.[10] For inspectors and officers, mental health could be due to an interaction between moderate stress levels and better use of adaptive coping strategies. The exercise of more efficient coping strategies could be attributed to many factors such as their educational and social background, an influential position, and availability of various facilities, and good support from family and social networks. It is also evident that the two-way interaction effect was found to be significant in officers and found that emotion-focused strategies were maladaptive, while problem-focused strategies were adaptive for mental health.[37] Thus, psychoeducation to enhance adaptive and active coping strategies can be provided to the constables to COPE with occupational stress.

In a study on police personnel, it was found that perceived stress mediated the relationship between work characteristics and mental health outcomes.[38] A study used correlational research to study coping in police stress and well-being. Concerning occupational stress, job satisfaction plays a mediating role between work-related stress and psychological morbidity.[2] Another study assessed the moderating effect of coping on police work stress and PTSD and revealed that low active or high passive coping methods might exacerbate work stress on PTSD symptoms.[39]

Social support as a moderator of stress and mental health

This study has categorized social support as a tangible, appraisal, and belonging support. In officers, appraisal support, belonging support, and social support total have a significant moderating effect (significant at < 0.001). In contrast, a tangible asset has a complete moderating impact (significant at < 0.05) on the relationship between stress and mental health. Tangible support denotes the material aid that includes one's requests for money, tools, and assistance with a task. The appraisal support denotes the presence of a confident and trusted advisor. An individual is given a constructive appraisal by providing verbal feedback approving the actions or recognition by appropriate means to increase their self-esteem and self-worth. A previous study shows that the officers entertain the highest overall social support level, followed by inspectors and constables, statistically significant. To appreciate what contributes to such outcomes, we need to appreciate how the three groups score in various social support dimensions.

This could be attributed to many factors associated like being highest in the work hierarchy. They have generous social acceptance from all society's strata, superior educational and social background, a more influential position, provision of various facilities, and good support social networks. Because they are influential, they have an extensive social network, and most people are willing to impart additional social support and services to them. The officers are shown to receive the highest level of tangible support. Most of them were confident that someone is there to look after their house or take them to the doctor when they are sick or out of town or attending an emergency.

In Inspectors' category, social support total was found to have a partial moderating effect on the relationship between stress and mental health (significant at <0.001). According to the SSS, they feel that for them “there is at least one person whose advice they can trust” about their personal as well as official problems, and there is some superior authority to fall back on. The interpersonal stress experienced by inspectors is higher than constables and officers. Social support in the workplace refers to the general levels of aid and assistance provided through social interactions with coworkers and supervisors.[40] Work colleagues can act as key support providers and can often provide experientially salient information that allows an individual to foster a sense of control, which can subsequently promote psychological well-being.[41],[42] Although support can be obtained from many sources in an individual's social network, supervisors and colleagues have been identified as key social support providers for ameliorating the negative effects of stress in police employees.[25],[23] In constables, a probable reason for the absence of significant moderating effect of any social support domains was found related to the association between stress and mental health could be their being lowest in the work hierarchy lower level of educational level compared to officers and inspectors and lesser level of social support.


   Conclusion Top


The present study infers that the amount of stress experienced by all echelons of police is exceptionally high. The social support and coping strategies have a moderating effect on the relationship between stress and mental health. There is the implication for the training in terms of teaching specific active and adaptive coping strategies for the management of workplace-related stress and promotion of health and well-being in the police personnel. This piece of research also encourages to initiate comparative research in future in the area of stress, coping strategies, social support, and mental health of police personnel of various other regions of the world where stress is high and also where the occupational stress is low.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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