The thin blue line of health: Police contact and wellbeing in Europe

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3 Scopus citations


Increasing evidence suggests that even minor forms of contact with the criminal justice system—such as being stopped by police—may be implicated in poor health. Police use of force can increase the risk of physical injury, whereas interactions accompanied by abusive rhetoric or threats can lead to psychological and emotional harm. Police contact may also have no health consequences for individuals or even be linked to good health because of an increased sense of public safety and confidence in law enforcement. This is the first study that explores whether contact with law enforcement is related to health and wellbeing in Europe. We estimated multilevel models with data from 26 countries that participated in the 2010 round of the European Social Survey. Across all outcomes—self-rated health, functional limitations, happiness, loneliness, and emotional wellbeing—having been approached, stopped or contacted by police was associated with worse health and wellbeing, especially when police treatment was perceived as unsatisfactory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112404
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Emotional wellbeing
  • Europe
  • Health
  • Police contact


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