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Mental toughness and perceived stress in police and fire officers

Fiona Ward (School of Psychology, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK)
Helen St Clair-Thompson (School of Psychology, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK)
Alex Postlethwaite (School of Psychology, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 27 April 2018

Issue publication date: 17 October 2018

Abstract

Purpose

Mental toughness describes a set of attributes relating to how individuals deal with challenges, stressors, and pressure. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationships between mental toughness and perceived stress in police and fire officers.

Design/methodology/approach

The participants were 247 police officers and 130 fire fighters. Participants completed questionnaire measures of mental toughness and perceived stress, and provided information about their age, rank, and length of service within the force.

Findings

Mental toughness was found to be significantly related to perceived stress, with control of emotion, control of life, and confidence in abilities being particularly important. There was no consistent relationship of age, rank, or length of service with mental toughness and perceived stress. However, police officers reported lower levels of mental toughness and higher levels of perceived stress than fire officers.

Practical implications

The results suggest that assessing police and fire officers on a measure of mental toughness could provide a means of identifying individuals more likely to suffer from stress and stress-related physical and psychological illness. In addition, interventions that may enhance mental toughness could have beneficial effects within this population.

Originality/value

This is the first study to examine mental toughness and perceived stress within this population, and the findings have important implications for the management of stress.

Keywords

Citation

Ward, F., St Clair-Thompson, H. and Postlethwaite, A. (2018), "Mental toughness and perceived stress in police and fire officers", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 41 No. 6, pp. 674-686. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-01-2017-0013

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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