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Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

Pilot Projects Past Awardee Rebecca Molsberry co-authors article on stress and self-help therapies of law enforcement officers

HOUSTON (April 7, 2022) – As part of the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH)’s Pilot Projects Research Training Program, past awardee Rebecca Molsberry co-authored an article studying stress and self-help therapies of law enforcement officers. The article, “Acceptability of a real-time notification of stress and access to self-help therapies among law enforcement officers” was published in BMC Public Health in January.

Ms. Molsberry is a PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences (EHGES) at the The University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health at the Dallas Regional Campus. Molsberry was funded through the PPRTP for her project on “Leveraging Personal Technology to Intervene on Continuous Occupational Stress Among Law Enforcement Officers”.

“Our research discovered that the law enforcement officers who participated were largely accepting of the wearable technology and did not find it distracting while in the field,” Molsberry said. “In addition to discovering that officers were accepting of the technology, we also found that officers were not just alerted of high stress while on the scene of a call. Officers often had increasing stress levels before they even arrived on a scene, with 88% of officers with at least one high-stress alert reporting that the alert occurred while reading dispatch notes en route to a call. Officers also had periods of high stress associated with administrative duties, such as dealing with supervisors and trainee officers.”

If afforded additional time and funding in future, Molsberry aims to study qualitive measure of stress reduction in law enforcement officers through wearable technology.

“Officers face many traumas related to their occupational duties, and interventions that provide real-time stress reduction should continue to be a focus of future research," Molsberry said. "As we identified in our study, the field of wearable technologies can be leveraged for reducing officer stress, and there are many potential areas of expansion for overall mental health. While we found the high-stress alerts acceptable among officers in this study, it is yet to be determined how effective the alerts were in reducing officer stress in the field. Future studies should quantitatively evaluate the level of stress reduction provided by stress relief techniques and how the incorporation of stress relief techniques impacts clinical mental health indicators (such as depression) over time. The stress reduction techniques should also be expanded and evaluated among officers, as individuals can cope with stress in vastly different ways. If officers can break the cycles of stress that they experience throughout the course of a shift, they will be both physically and mentally more prepared to take on the next call for service.”

The goal of the Pilot Projects Research Training Program is to enhance Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) regional outreach efforts in research training and to foster stronger inter-institutional ties in occupational health research within Public Health Region 6 (PHR 6) (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas).

The SWCOEH provides a variety of graduate-level training opportunities for occupational and environmental health professionals through our industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, occupational epidemiology, and Total Worker Health®.