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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in United States Corrections Professionals: Prevalence and Impact on Health and Functioning

NCJ Number
Caterina G. Spinaris, Ph.D.; Michael D. Denhof, Ph.D.; Julie A. Kellaway, Ph.D.
Date Published
32 pages
This study estimated the current rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among corrections professionals in the United States, and explored its impact on health and functioning.
Major findings from this study on prevalence rates of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) among corrections professionals in the United States include the following: the prevalence rate for symptoms of PTSD experienced within the past 30 days was 27 percent for the entire sample, and 31 percent and 22 percent for males and females, respectively; a higher rate of PTSD, 31 percent, was found among security personnel compared to all other types of personnel; and 100 percent of participants confirmed exposure to at least one VID (violence, injury, death) event during their career, with 28 VID events being the average number experienced by participants during their career. Additionally the study found that male correctional officers experienced more VID events compared to female correctional officers; security staff experienced twice as many VID events compared to other categories of corrections personnel; and corrections professionals with PTSD experienced all VID events at proportionally higher rates than corrections professionals that showed no signs of PTSD. These findings indicate that PTSD is a significant occupational hazard for corrections professionals, and especially more for males than females. In addition, the findings suggest that corrections professionals who present with signs of PTSD are at greater risk for experiencing other health conditions compared to corrections professionals who show no signs of PTSD. Data for this study were obtained from a nationwide sample of corrections professionals (n=3,599) who completed the PTSD Checklist Civilian Version; the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale-21; the Impact on Functioning Scale; and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. The primary purpose of the study was to determine a reasonable estimate of prevalence rates of PTSD among U.S. corrections professionals, and the determine the degree to which depression, anxiety, stress, health conditions, satisfaction with life, and day-to-day functioning were present in individuals who presented with PTSD. Study limitations and concerns regarding the study's findings are discussed. Tables, figure, and references