Psychophysical stress and strain of maritime pilots in Germany. A cross-sectional study

Maritime pilots work in an irregular deployment system (rotation system) with unpredictable work assignments under high levels of physical and mental stress. Fatigue or chronic diseases, e.g. coronary heart disease, peptic ulcers or gastritis can occur as a consequence. This can lead to long-term limitations of pilots’ work ability. The aim of this study is to analyse current stress and strain in maritime pilots. Initially, all German pilots were interviewed with an online questionnaire about their living and working situation (response rate 43%). Subsequently, a medical and psychological examination of a random sample was carried out with pilots working in a 4-month rotation system compared with those working in a 1-week system. Most of the measurements took place at the beginning and the end of continuous work assignments each lasting several weeks (pre vs post-rotation). The questionnaires RESTQ-work 27, Resilience Scale RS-13 and Berlin Questionnaire were used as well as a sleeping diary. Furthermore, cardiovascular parameters (during rest and under ergometric stress), activity and blood parameters, urine stress hormones, and the pupillary unrest index were surveyed. 60 pilots were recorded with an average age of 48.7 years (SD 8.3 years). Among the parameters collected, there were no significant differences between pre and post-rotation examinations. Pilots with a 4-month rotation system experienced a much higher subjective strain level in RESTQ work-27 (OR 10.12 (95% CI 1.21–84.59)). According to the sleep diaries of the pilots working in a 4-month rotation system, reduced levels were found concerning the pre and post-rotation subjective performance level (p = 0.042 and 0.029), subjective sleep duration (p = 0.032) and current subjective feeling post-rotation (p = 0.036). Objectively measured arterial hypertension was significantly more frequent among pilots working 4 months at a time (OR 21.41 (95% CI 1.26–364.05)). In addition, elevated levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides and uric acid were more common among this group of pilots (p = 0.038, p = 0.033 and p = 0.038). In particular, the risk of hypertriglyceridemia was increased (OR 4.41 (95% CI 1.15–16.91)). fMaritime pilotage represents a very straining profession that has been studied very little up to this point. The present results indicate that 4-month rotation systems lead to higher levels of subjective and objective strain than 1-week rotation systems. Interventions are therefore recommended; especially a change in the rotation system should be considered.


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  • Media Type: Web
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: e0221269
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  • Accession Number: 01717609
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Aug 20 2019 2:27PM