Oregon Department of Corrections addresses well-being

One major goal of the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences is to turn science into practice and make real-world differences in the lives of workers. We are excited to highlight one line of work conducted with the Oregon Department of Corrections, recently highlighted by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB). Specifically, survey and intervention studies conducted by Drs. Kerry Kuehl (Professor of Medicine at OHSU School of Medicine), Leslie Hammer (Oregon Healthy Workforce Center Associate Director at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and Professor of Psychology at Portland State University), and Charlotte Fritz (Associate Professor of Psychology at Portland State University) were completed with over 1000 correction officers at the 14 Oregon Department of Corrections prisons to identify health risks and execute an intervention in order to improve well-being outcomes among these corrections officers.

This work resulted in two peer-reviewed publications. First, in work published in Occupational Health Science, Fritz, Hammer, Guros, Shepherd, and Meier found that hypervigilance—that is, “an extreme attentiveness to and assessment of the environment as potentially dangerous”—was associated with higher exhaustion, physical health symptoms, work-to-family conflict, and sleep impairment. Second, Shepherd, Fritz, Hammer, Guros, and Meier published work in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology in which they found that emotional job demands (job demands in which workers must engage in emotional situations) was associated with higher levels of burnout which led to increased alcohol consumption. Further, these associations were at their highest when workers engaged in low levels of workplace recovery experiences. This study highlighted the importance of workplace recovery activities for these workers.

Given findings from these studies, the Oregon Department of Corrections increased its emphasis on workplace well-being for correction officers and added an employee wellness centers in all 14 of the state’s prisons. Listen to the OPB segment in which DOC Director Collette Peters shares the results of this work.

Learn more about the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center and the Hammer Lab.

Submitted by Nicholas Smith, Ph.D., Postdoctural Researcher, Hammer Lab