Personality, depressive symptoms and prior trauma exposure of new recruits at two Metropolitan Police Service academies in South Africa

U Subramaney, E Libhaber, N Pitts, M Vorster


Background. Police officers are predisposed to trauma exposure. The development of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be influenced by personality style, prior exposure to traumatic events and prior depression.

Objectives. To describe the personality profiles of new Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers, and to determine the association between personality profiles, trauma exposure and depressive symptoms.

Methods. We performed a cross-sectional analysis of 139 new recruits at two MPS academies in South Africa. A questionnaire elucidating traumatic life events and personality profiles was developed using the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III). Depressive symptoms were measured using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD).

Results. Almost all subjects (99.3%) had previous trauma exposure, most commonly the unexpected death of a loved one and motor vehicle accidents. Prevalence of clinical depression was low (mean HAMD 3.57; standard deviation ±3.37). Personality characteristics revealed a high prevalence of anxiety (64.7%; 95% CI 56.8 - 72.6), depressive clinical patterns (34.5%; 95% CI 26.6 - 42.2), paranoia (33.1 %; 95% CI 26.6 - 42.2) and major depression (10.3%; 95% CI 5.1 - 15.1). There were no significant associations between any of the traumatic events and depressive symptoms, nor were there any significant associations between any of the personality variables and HAMD score (p>0.05).

Conclusion. The presence of depressive symptoms among MPS officers was low, with no significant associations between traumatic events, personality variables and depressive symptoms.


Metro policeofficers; depression; PTSD; personality

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Submitted: 06 August 2012
Published: 01 December 2012

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)