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Social avoidance in policing

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      Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the association of social avoidance among police, cardiovascular disease (CVD) (metabolic syndrome (MetSyn)), and social support. Design/methodology/approach Participants were officers from the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress study (n = 289). Social avoidance (defined as the tendency to avoid social contact) and other subscales from the Cook-Medley Hostility Scale were analyzed. The mean number of MetSyn components across tertiles of the Cook-Medley scales was computed using analysis of variance and analysis of covariance. Social support was measured with the Social Provisions Scale, categorized as high or low based on the median. Findings The mean number of MetSyn components increased significantly across tertiles of social avoidance (1.51 ± 0.18, 1.52 ± 0.12, and 1.81 ± 0.12); the only Cook-Medley subscale that remained significantly associated with MetSyn following adjustment for age and gender. Participants high in social avoidance reported significantly lower social support (79.9 ± 8.5 vs 85.8 ± 8.6; p = 0.001). Research limitations/implications The study is cross-sectional and therefore precludes causality. The authors were unable to determine the direction of associations between social avoidance and MetSyn. The measure of social support was unidimensional, including only perceived support; additional types of social support measures would be helpful. Practical implications This study suggests that occupational-based police social isolation is associated with health outcomes and lower support. Several suggestions are made which will help to improve communication between the police and public. Examples are the use of social media, training in communication techniques, and changing the police role to one of public guardians. Originality/value Social avoidance is the least studied the Cook-Medley subscale associated with CVD. It is important for the health of officers to maintain a social connection with others.
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