Medicina (Kaunas) 2006; 42 (9): 759-769

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Association between environment and psycho-emotional stress experienced at sea by Lithuanian and Latvian seamen

Jonas Sąlyga, Algirdas Juozulynas1

Klaipėda Seamen’s Hospital, 1Institute of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, Vilnius University, Lithuania

Key words: seamen; cross-national comparison; self-reported; psycho-emotional stress; risk factors.

Summary. This is the first scientific research in Lithuania and Latvia that involves a national cross-sectional study of the seamen of two different countries – Lithuania and Latvia – including the evaluation and comparison of seamen’s working environment, lifestyle, health, the prevalence of health-damaging risk factors, as well as the causative relationships between the objective and subjective health evaluation and psycho-emotional stress experienced at sea. The aim of the study was to investigate the frequency and predictors of the psycho-emotional stress experienced at sea by Lithuanian and Latvian seamen.

Beside the common statistical methods, the logistic stepwise regression analysis was used in order to find the risk factors of the self-rated stress and to correct the risk estimates for the confounding variables. Seamen of both countries indicated that they experienced psycho-emotional stress after, on the average, 2.7–2.8 months from the beginning of the voyage. More than one-half (57.5%) of Latvian seamen stated that they had experienced psycho-emotional stress, whereas the respective percentage of Lithuanian seamen was smaller (46.1%). The obtained findings showed that, having evaluated the influence of all the analyzed factors (industry-specific, health and lifestyle, medical and demographic), there was no significant difference between the seamen of the two countries concerning the experience of psycho-emotional stress on the ship. The following main prognostic factors related to the occurrence of psycho-emotional stress on the ship were determined: higher or specialized secondary education level (p<0.001), age of 35–44 or 45–54 years (p<0.01), 9–10 or 11–12 hours of work per day when being exposed to detrimental factors (p<0.01), the evaluation of one’s health status as “average” (p<0.05), and evaluation of one’s physical capacity as “quite good” or “average” (p<0.01). The occurrence of psycho-emotional stress was mostly influenced by work in the environment requiring increased visual strain (p<0.001) and vibration (p<0.05). We found that the following factors were associated with the occurrence of psycho-emotional stress on the ship: depression that occurred more frequently at sea than on shore (p<0.001), disturbed working and resting regimen due to time zone changes (p<0.001), and disturbed regular sexual life (p<0.001).

Many of the unique aspects of seafaring are unchangeable. However, it possible to modify, supplement, or develop new strategies to reduce the impact these factors have on the health of individual seafarers.

Correspondence to J. Sąlyga, Klaipėda Seamen’s Hospital, Liepojos 45, 92288 Klaipėda, Lithuania. E-mail:

Received 19 April 2006, accepted 17 August 2006