Welfare Notes - July 2004

July, 2004

A leading weekly news magazine has called stress an epidemic, and has gone on to refer to stress as our leading health problem. It has been estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. Forty percent of all workers report that their job is very or extremely stressful. Job stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults, but stress levels have also climbed in children and older adults.

In medical terms stress is something that puts pressure on us. Today’s mariner faces many of the work related problems that contribute to the pressures and fears that are the greatest contributors to stress. Stress can be associated with depression, hypertension, strokes and heart attack. Chronic stress can result in increased blood cholesterol and can encourage harmful eating habits. Additionally seagoing sailors suffer job related stresses from other contributing factors such as the stress of isolation being away from your home and family. The stress of working in heavy weather and dangerous working conditions, and the stress of working long hours with the lack of sleep all could lead to dangerous stress induced medical conditions.

There are ways to help reduce some of the workplace stress that we incur. Many of the health habits we already know about have the effect of reducing stress. These include improving your diet. If you are on a ship you do have the option of ordering healthier meals and watching your portions. Doctors recommend getting regular and moderate exercise; use the gyms and the equipment on the ships. Try avoiding alcohol and caffeine and getting enough rest. Your medical providers can all offer you information on reducing stress. You may also contact the American Institute of Stress by phone at 914-963-1200 or on line at www.stress.org.