Assessing the Relationship between Age and Personality Variables on the Psychological and Physiological Well-Being of Police Officers

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ABSTRACT

The aim of this study was to assess the relationships between age and various personality variables (i.e., morningness, languidity, flexibility, neuroticism, and extroversion) on a variety of well-being scores, including: (1) physiological (i.e., chronic fatigue, cardiovascular symptoms, and digestive symptoms), (2) psychological (i.e., cognitive and somatic anxiety), and (3) total sleep disturbance. It was hypothesized that morningness, flexibility, and extroversion scores would have a significant beneficial relationship with subjective well-being. In contrast, age, languidity, and neuroticism scores would have a significant adverse relationship with subjective well-being. One hundred and twenty-nine Police Officers completed a modified version of the Standard Shiftwork Index (SSI). The results of the Pearson's product coefficients indicated that higher morningness, flexibility, and extroversion personality scores were related to increased subjective well-being, while age, languidity, and neuroticism were correlated with reduced subjective well-being. The results of this current study provide additional empirical support for the premise that an individual's psychological and physiological well-being is influenced by personality. In addition, the impact of the outlined personality measures may either exacerbate or attenuate the ability to adapt successfully to a shift-working lifestyle.

Shiftwork plays an increasingly essential role in today's society. Within Australia for example, Rogers, Roberts, Dawson, Reid, and Baker (1990) suggest that approximately 15-20% of working Australians are involved in occupations which include at least some time working in shifts. The consequence of shiftwork on well-being may also, in the long term, be detrimental to the health of society. Shiftwork research suggests that shiftworkers are at an increased risk of suffering a variety of psychological and physiological symptoms (for reviews of this research, see Cole, Loving, & Kripke, 1990; Costa, 1996; Fossey, 1990; James, 1996; Monk, 1990; Nicholson & D'Auria, 1999; Prescott, 1995; Rutenfranz, 1982; Scott & Ladou, 1990; Singer, 1983).

While all Shiftworkers have a core group of psychological and physical stressor variables that are common, there are many other factors that do not relate to all shiftworking cohorts. For instance, there are few if any shiftwork groups that have the same extensive stress profile as police officers. The psychological and emotional (safety for self and colleagues, victim distress) and physical (victims of assault, working in extreme weather conditions) variables require specific investigation that is not warranted in other groupings. For this reason, most if not all police forces require recruits to undergo psychological testing. There are certain key psychological and emotional factors that can be identified that indicate suitable police officers per se, of which personality is one.

Despite the above evidence, it may be argued that it is impossible to measure effectively an individual's ability to 'adapt successfully' to shiftwork. For example, if individuals have no opportunity to report either little or no psychological or physiological symptomology, it could be argued that they have 'successfully' adapted to shiftwork. A more effective measure, therefore, would be to investigate the health-related consequences of shiftwork. The aim of this study is to utilize the Standard Shiftwork Index (SSI) developed by Barton, Spelten, Smith, Folkard, and Costa (1995) to assess the relationships between age, and SSI personality measures (i.e., morningness, languidity, flexibility, neuroticism and extroversion) on perceived physiological symptoms (i.e., chronic fatigue, cardiovascular and digestive symptoms), psychological symptoms (i.e., cognitive and somatic anxiety), and perceived sleep disturbance.

AGE AND SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING SCORES

Queinnec, Gadbios, and Delof (1995) argue that shiftwork can be considered as an acceleration of the normal 'wearing out process', and consequently, as age increases, the number of those individuals performing shiftwork decreases. …