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GW4 PUP Community – Performance Under Pressure


Occupational stress has been identified as a 21st century global health epidemic, given its links to 7 out of 10 leading causes of death. Stress can also have acute performance and productivity effects, and accounts for 37% of work-related ill-health, 45% of lost working days, and costs an estimated 10% of GNP. The HSE reports that jobs showing the highest stress are those required to perform under high-pressure. One example is policing, where operational and organizational stressors have been linked to high rates of various health problems (e.g., poor mental well-being, PTSD, suicide). In the Devon and Cornwall Police Constabulary specifically, 172,664 work hours were lost in the 12 months up to August 2020 due to work stress/mental health absence. Work stress encountered can, paradoxically, be the “kiss of death” or the “spice of life”; since successful adaptation can enable individuals and organizations to thrive. In view of the above context, the community aims to bring academic experts and external partners together through this and subsequent funding to deliver a step-change in police occupational stress research; produce world-leading, interdisciplinary research; apply collaboratively for grants; and begin tackling the negative effects of stress on police officers’ performance, health, and well-being.

The project built on an Initiator Award  The GW4 PUP Community – Performance Under Pressure, Understanding Occupational Stress Performance, Health and Wellbeing in a High Pressure Environment.


Project summary

The community engaged with three regional police forces, running workshops to build and strengthen these relationships. In these workshops, the community co-designed and co-produced a stress audit with police stakeholders, which was then run across all three forces. The stress audit helped identify which stressors have the strongest impact, and which individuals/groups are most at-risk, and it explored attitudes towards stress management interventions. The findings of these stress audits will be shared across the police domain. Together with their police stakeholders, the community are developing an external grant application which will build on this research to tackle the negative effects of stress on performance, health, and wellbeing in the police.

Additionally, the community received an award from the University of Bath Impact fund to implement and translate the stress audit research findings into the design and development of a bespoke and tailored VR decompression tool for police officers.

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter