Original Research

Stress and coping mechanisms of officers of the South African Police Service based in Tzaneen, Limpopo province, South Africa

Makhawukana R.V. Mushwana, Indiran Govender, Kathryn Nel
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 25 | a1342 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v25i0.1342 | © 2019 Makhawukana R.V. Mushwana, Indiran Govender, Kathryn Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 October 2018 | Published: 27 November 2019

About the author(s)

Makhawukana R.V. Mushwana, Department of Psychology, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, South Africa
Indiran Govender, Department of Family Medicine, Sefako Makgatho University, Medunsa, South Africa
Kathryn Nel, Department of Psychology, University of Limpopo, Sovenga, South Africa


Background: In this study, stress is conceptualised as a psychological syndrome in response to stressors. Stress and inappropriate coping mechanisms constitute a serious problem in police profession. Organisational causes of stress, such as lack of support from management, are additional stressors. The ability to cope with this stress is influenced by marital status, gender, rank, age and years of service. In managing stress, police officers may use adaptive or maladaptive coping mechanisms.

Aim: To investigate stress and the coping mechanisms used by police officers.

Setting: The study was set in Tzaneen, Limpopo province, South Africa.

Methods: This cross-sectional study used a self-administered questionnaire based on the Police Stress Inventory (PSI) and Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced (COPE) tools.

Results: Of the 104 participants, female police officers had significantly higher stress intensity scores, while constables and captains had statistically significant lower stress scores. The highest ranked stressors were killing someone in the line of duty, a fellow officer killed in the line of duty, and knowledge of and experiencing the death of a fellow officer in the line of duty. The five most frequently occurring stressors were organisational in nature. Respondents were more likely to use coping strategies that were problem-focused.

Conclusion: Organisational stressors were common, suggesting that the South African Police Services (SAPS) management should provide interventions that reduce the effects of work-related stressors. The majority of respondents used problem-focused coping strategies, indicating that most handle stressors in a positive manner.


occupational stress; coping; organisational stressors; emotional disconnection; maladaptive coping strategies


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Crossref Citations

1. Leadership development framework for women in policing in South Africa: Overcoming leadership barriers
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