Positive Links Between Exposure to Police Violence, PTSD, and Depression Symptoms Among Yellow Vests Protesters in France

Elif Çelebi, Jais Adam-Troian*, Yara Mahfud

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Police violence during protests occurs worldwide with varying levels ranging from physical abuse to lethal use of force. Although prior research has investigated the health consequences of exposure to police violence (EPV), EPV’s relationship with protesters’ mental health has not yet been examined. Therefore, we designed a cross-sectional study which included measures of self-reported EPV, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. The computerized survey was disseminated among a large sample of Yellow Vests protesters in France (N = 523; average protest attendance = 18). Overall, 49% of protesters displayed severe symptoms of depression and 15.5% met the criteria for provisory post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses. Subsequent analyses revealed, as expected, positive associations between EPV, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms in our sample (.30 < d <.63). These were robust to adjustment on several potential confounds (e.g., physical injuries, demographics, political extremism) and similar when analyzing provisory diagnoses rates (1.65 < OR < 3.02). This study is the first to assess potentially detrimental effects of EPV on mental health during protests. Furthermore, prevalence rates for both provisory depression and PTSD diagnoses were comparable with those found among war-refugee populations. We call for further research on EPV among various protester samples and use longitudinal designs to investigate a potent risk factor for mental health issues among civilian populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2267-2288
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number5-6
Early online date8 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • depression
  • mental health
  • police violence
  • protesters
  • PTSD
  • trauma
  • Yellow Vests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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