Enduring the shipboard stressor complex: a systems approach

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2005 Jun;76(6 Suppl):B108-18.


A high incidence of physiological and psychological stressors characterizes the maritime work environment in many segments of the commercial maritime industry and in the military. Traditionally, crewmembers work embedded in a complex of stressors. Stressors rarely act independently because most occur concurrently, simultaneously taxing physical and mental resources. Stressors such as extreme environmental temperatures, long work hours, heavy mental and physical workload, authoritative leadership, isolation from family and loved ones, lack of exercise, and unhealthy diets often combine to degrade crewmember health and performance, particularly on long voyages. This complex system of interacting stressors affects the ability of maritime crewmembers to maintain adequate levels of alertness and performance. An analytical systems approach methodology is described here as a viable method to identify workplace stressors and track their systemic interactions. A systems-based program for managing the stressor complex is then offered, together with the empirical research supporting its efficacy. Included is an example implementation of a stressor-control program aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Authoritarianism
  • Behavioral Research*
  • Environment*
  • Fatigue*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Naval Medicine*
  • Occupational Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Ships*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Systems Analysis
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Workforce
  • Workplace / psychology*