The enduring effects of job demands on the mental health of police officers


Lawson, Katrina J. 2011. The enduring effects of job demands on the mental health of police officers. Thesis
AuthorsLawson, Katrina J.
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Occupational stress research has consistently documented significant relationships between work characteristics and employee mental health, with the components of the Demand-Control-Support (DCS) model of occupational stress (i.e., job demand, job control and social support) being widely used to capture work characteristics (Karasek & Theorell, 1990). The work characteristics of the DCS model appear to be key determinants of employee health outcomes for individuals in a diverse range of occupations (de Lange, Taris, Kompier, Houtman, & Bongers, 2003; van der Doef & Maes, 1999). Although previous research suggests that the DCS model may provide a strong foundation for investigating the effects of the work environment on employee health, the model does not, however, consider the possible effects of the broader organisational context on the health of employees. In light of this criticism, a growing body of research in the last decade (Fujishiro & Heaney, 2007) has begun to compare the influence of work characteristics, as measured by the DCS model, with a concept known as 'organisational justice' in order to broaden the focus of the DCS model and to account for the organisational environment (e.g. Elovainio, Kivimaki, & Vahtera, 2002; Kivimaki, et al., 2005; Kivimaki, et al., 2004; Zohar, 1995). Preliminary results from studies that have compared the effects of work characteristics and organisational justice onto health outcomes tend to indicate that justice is a stronger antecedent of employee mental health than work characteristics. Research studies incorporating both work characteristics and justice are relatively few however and uncertainty remains regarding the relative importance of justice. The lack of clarity as to whether organisational justice captures greater variation in employee health outcomes than work characteristics may be due, at least in part, to methodological issues in previous studies.;In particular, previous justice research that has controlled for the effects of the DCS components have not tended to include the full complement of organisational justice types and have often assumed direct or linear relationships between antecedents and health outcomes. In order to provide some clarity regarding the importance of organisational justice, this thesis seeks to compare the predictive ability of work characteristics and organisational justice in terms of mental health among a sample of police officers. The possibility of curvilinear relationships and/or interaction effects will be considered and the four empirically distinct types of organisational justice will each be included as antecedents to offer transparency about how different fairness perceptions affect employee mental health. The relationships between three mental health indicators will also be investigated and the possible prevalence of work related depression in Australia will be explored. Data for this thesis was obtained in 2005 and 2006 as part of a larger ARC project. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses found that job demands were significantly related to mental health outcomes at both baseline and one year follow-up. The effects of job level resources, in the form of job control and social support, were largely limited to concurrent mental health. Similarly, the unique effects of organisational justice were restricted to short term mental health, particularly job satisfaction. Therefore, although there is some potential for organisational justice to promote employee mental health, the effects of job demands on employee health appear to be considerably more important. Ongoing monitoring of job demands, including the number of demands faced and time pressures, may avoid a situation where employee mental health is compromised.;Without preventative health promotion strategies, the consequences of job demands may have adaptation effects that are detrimental to employee mental health.

PublisherACU Research Bank
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publisher's version
Publication dates01 Dec 2011
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