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Short and Long Haul Pilots Rosters, Stress, Sleep Problems, Fatigue, Mental Health, and Well-Being

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OBJECTIVE: This research was conducted to compare short haul (SH) and long haul (LH) pilots regarding sleep restrictions and fatigue risks on flight duty, stress, sleep problems, fatigue severity, well-being, and mental health.

METHOD: There were 406 international SH and LH pilots who completed the cross-sectional online survey. Pilots sleep restrictions and fatigue-risk profiles (e.g., time pressure, late arrivals, minimum rest), sleep problems, fatigue severity, well-being, and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and common mental disorders (CMD) were measured and compared for SH and LH pilots.

RESULTS: Although SH and LH pilots were scheduled for only 51.465.4% of the legally allowed duty and flight hours, 44.8% of SH pilots reported severe fatigue (FSS 4 to 4.9), and an additional 31.7% high fatigue (FSS 5), compared with 34.7% and 37.3% LH pilots. Considerable sleep problems in 8 nights/mo were reported by 24.6% SH vs. 23.5% LH pilots. Positive depression screenings were reported by 18.1% SH and 19.3% LH pilots. Positive anxiety screenings were reported by 9.6% SH and 5% LH pilots. Of all investigated pilots, 20% reported significant symptoms of depression or anxiety, and 7.23% had positive depression and anxiety screenings. LH pilots reported significantly better well-being than SH pilots.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that even far less duty and flight hours than legally allowed according to flight time limitations lead to high levels of fatigue, sleep problems, and significant mental health issues among pilots. SH pilots were even more affected than LH pilots. Pilots fatigue should be considered an immediate threat to aviation safety and pilots fitness to fly by promoting fatigue and burnout.

Venus M, grosse Holtforth M. Short and long haul pilots rosters, stress, sleep problems, fatigue, mental health, and well-being. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2021; 92(10):786797.
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Keywords: common mental disorders; fatigue risks; fatigue severity; short haul and long haul pilots; sleep problems; sleep restrictions, mental health; work-related and psychosocial stress

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2021

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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