Systematic review of maritime field studies about stress and strain in seafaring

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2013 Jan;86(1):1-15. doi: 10.1007/s00420-012-0801-5. Epub 2012 Aug 23.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to summarize and evaluate the current scientific literature on stress and strain on seafarers on board as defined by maritime field surveys.

Methods: Using a systematic review, 109 studies on the stress and strain experienced by seafarers were identified for the period January 1990 to January 2012.

Results: Only 13 of the identified maritime studies were conducted as field studies, and in 10 of these studies, the focus was on the watch system and/or on fatigue. According to the study results, sleepiness tends to be stronger in the 2-watch system than in the 3-watch system (particularly between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m.). Occasional short sleep episodes appear to provide adequate recovery. Fatigue does not appear to depend on the seafarers' age and is often associated with poor sleep quality; noise and night shifts are also considered to contribute to fatigue. Stress among the seafarers was primarily recorded in sleep diaries (9 times) and with devices for measuring physical activity (4 times). As a rule, a questionnaire was used to assess the strain on the crew on board; 7 studies also additionally recorded biometrical parameters. Only in 6 cases were several groups with different ranks on board investigated.

Conclusion: The conducted literature review makes it clear that most maritime field studies have focused on fatigue and watch systems in the shipping industry--in each case as univariate parameters. Thus, scientific field studies with comprehensive multivariate stress and strain analyses on board are required.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Ships*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires