Assessment of sleepiness, fatigue, and depression among Gulf Cooperation Council commercial airline pilots

Sleep Breath. 2018 May;22(2):411-419. doi: 10.1007/s11325-017-1565-7. Epub 2017 Sep 7.


Purpose: No studies have assessed the prevalence of fatigue, depression, sleepiness, and the risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among commercial airlines pilots in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Methods: This was a quantitative cross-sectional study conducted among pilots who were on active duty and had flown during the past 6 months for one of three commercial airline companies. We included participants with age between 20 and 65 years. Data were collected using a predesigned electronic questionnaire composed of questions related to demographic information in addition to the Fatigue Severity Scale (FSS), the Berlin Questionnaire, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).

Results: The study included 328 pilots with a mean age ± standard deviation of 41.4 ± 9.7 years. Overall, 224 (68.3%) pilots had an FSS score ≥ 36 indicating severe fatigue and 221 (67.4%) reported making mistakes in the cockpit because of fatigue. One hundred and twelve (34.1%) pilots had an ESS score ≥ 10 indicating excessive daytime sleepiness and 148 (45.1%) reported falling asleep at the controls at least once without previously agreeing with their colleagues. One hundred and thirteen (34.5%) pilots had an abnormal HADS depression score (≥ 8), and 96 (29.3%) pilots were at high risk for OSA requiring further assessment.

Conclusion: Fatigue, sleepiness, risk of OSA, and depression are prevalent among GCC commercial airline pilots. Regular assessment by aviation authorities is needed to detect and treat these medical problems.

Keywords: Airlines; Anxiety; Depression; Pilots; Sleep apnea; Sleepiness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Fatigue / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilots / psychology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Sleepiness*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult