Occupational stress and well-being: Do seafarers harbor more health problems than people on the shore?

R. S. Carel, D. Carmil, G. Keinan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The popular image of life at sea is one of stress: often difficult physical conditions, dislocation, isolation and less than ideal personal habits. In order to determine whether this stressful way of life is manifested when seamen's health status is assessed by standard measurements, we studied 144 sea captains and marine chief engineers as compared with a group of ordinarily employed men. The referent men were matched for age, ethnic origin, and level of education with the seamen. Outcome measures included a wide spectrum of physiological, psychological and behavioral indices. The comparisons revealed only mild differences between the two groups. Captains and chief engineers tend to harbor slightly higher levels of certain biochemical or physiological parameters (risk factors), such as serum cholesterol and uric acid, hemoglobin level and leukocyte count. Certain behavioral risk factors were more dominant among the seamen than among the control group (smoking level, alcohol consumption and lack of leisure-time physical activity). The study group did not exhibit a greater prevalence of overt disease or a higher degree of psychological symptoms. It is suggested that the group under study represents a self-selected group of persons well adjusted to their job and their special way of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-624
Number of pages6
JournalIsrael Journal of Medical Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • maritime medicine
  • occupational stress
  • seafarers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering


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