Prevalence and predictors of obesity in police officers
Although the physical challenges of police work often require that officers maintain a healthy weight status, little research has investigated the prevalence or predictors of obesity in police officers. Also, most past research has evaluated variables that require measurement by trained personnel, rather than self-reported measures that could be used with less time and cost to police departments. The first purpose of the present study was to examine the prevalence of obesity in police officers with self-reported height and weight used to calculate body mass index (BMI) scores, as well as self-reported waist circumference. The second purpose was to examine a set of biological, behavioral, psychological, and social variables that might be associated with police weight status based on past research with other adult samples. Participants included 163 male police officers from Pennsylvania who completed anonymous questionnaires to report possible biological predictors of weight status (age, health problems), behavioral predictors (exercise, alcohol, tobacco), psychological predictors (exposure to police-specific stressors), and social predictors (marital status, family support, police support). Based on BMI, 40.5% of the officers were obese, and based on waist circumference, 12.7% were obese. Multiple regression analyses revealed that officers with heavier BMI scores had less exercise (R2 = .13), and officers with larger waist circumferences had older age, less exercise, and single marital status (R2 = .19). Employee Assistance Programs to encourage weight management in police officers should focus on increasing opportunities and incentives for exercise.