Older Mariners Fare Better with COVID-19 Stress and Anxiety, Study Finds

For many demanding positions in the maritime industry, older age is viewed as a potential challenge to a mariner’s health and wellness. However, according to a recent study, the experience of age still has its benefits– older mariners actually reacted better to stress related to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions than younger mariners.

That was one finding of a recent collaborative study published by the University of Washington and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Based on an anonymous survey that specifically focused on American mariners, the study investigated how pandemic restrictions affected the potential risks of anxiety and depression. 

Survey respondents included credentialed crew working aboard inland workboats, government/public vessels, ocean-going cargo ships, passenger ships and others. Overall, nearly 38% of the mariners studied were at higher-than-average risk of depression and anxiety. Top concerns and adverse effects reported among mariners were being away from family, and family potentially falling ill while away, and denial shore leave while in port, with 23.9 percent having to stay aboard four months or more with no shore leave.

Interestingly, older mariners had generally lower scores on indicators of the risks of depression, anxiety, and overall perceived stress. The authors theorized this may result from both the benefits of experience and the “healthy worker bias”- which suggests mentally fit workers are more likely to stay in the industry at an older age. Officers also showed fewer signs of stress than cadets and pilots, though mariners sailing on government or public vessel types had a higher likelihood of stress and anxiety

The study recommended continuing efforts to support the mental health of mariners, especially emphasizing the importance of providing strong internet and/or phone access, sufficient time to sleep, and access to mental health resources. Encouraging mariners to recognize signs of stress in themselves or their fellow crew not only leads to better safety outcomes, the authors concluded, but “is crucial not only for the occupational health of this critical industry, but also for maintaining global and domestic supply chains.”


Read the study here, and more information on ship crew well-being here

Image Credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

We at The Herd Law Firm support the health and well-being of mariners, especially those facing illnesses and injury, as they work to support their families and the entire maritime industry.

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If you or someone that you know has contracted COVID-19 while on board a cruise ship, you may be entitled to compensation. If so, call the law offices of the Herd Law Firm, PLLC for a risk-free evaluation of your potential case.

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