Seafarers' psychological wellbeing: a rapid evidence assessment

Brown, S.D. ORCID: 0000-0001-7841-3225, Dahill, D., Baczor, L., King, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-0277-8444, Smith, S. and Mainard-Sardon, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-3203-4542, 2022. Seafarers' psychological wellbeing: a rapid evidence assessment. Nottingham: Nottingham Trent University.

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The psychological wellbeing of seafarers is a longstanding concern within the maritime sector. Whilst practices aimed at addressing physical safety are well established, there is a lack of shared understanding around how psychological wellbeing is best conceptualised and the kinds of interventions which might be most effectively developed and scaled up within the sector. The apparent absence of an overarching framework in which to approach psychological wellbeing in relation to safety is an obstacle to identifying the ‘active ingredients’ around which interventions may be designed.

This report describes a Rapid Evidence Assessment conducted to identify the core literature around seafarer wellbeing. In comparison with techniques such as Systematic Reviews, REAs work to shorter timescales and make pragmatic decisions around the inclusion criterion for literature, which may enable a broader and more diverse range of studies and reviews to be identified. The current REA initially identified 691 pieces of literature as of interest, which was reduced to a final selection of 183. This literature covers highly varied approaches and interventions around seafarer psychological wellbeing, primarily but not exclusively focused on the Global North and all published in English language.

Analysis of the evidence base represented within the final selection of studies showed that approaches tended to either address psychological wellbeing as a standalone topic or within a holistic approach including physical health and health promotion. The majority of studies within the final selection used a cross-sectional design, typically utilising quantitative measures such as surveys and evaluation instruments, with a smaller range using either mixed-methods or qualitative methods. There were very few longitudinal studies and the sample sizes across most of the studies were comparatively small. Psychological wellbeing was usually treated within a framework of stress, coping and resilience, and tended to adopt the individual seafarer as the unit of analysis, rather than relationships within the workplace or structural factors.

The kinds of interventions described within the final selection of literature were grouped into the following categories: physical health, psychological wellbeing, counselling and therapy, training, digital tools and environmental. There was considerable diversity in the focus and nature of the interventions within each category. Where reported, the evaluations of the efficacy of interventions tended to demonstrate modest gains in relation to the target measure, with the exception of physical health interventions, where there were some cases showing negative effects. Follow-up and long-term evaluations were very rare and there was little evidence of interventions being scaled up or extended to other populations within the sector.

The diverse nature of the current literature may be an obstacle to developing approaches to psychological wellbeing and safety that match the standards and practices currently achieved in relation to physical health. There does not appear to be a single framework that offers the possibility of unifying existing work within the field or providing a suitable benchmark for evaluation. There is also no single approach to intervention that has gathered sufficient evidence for the identification of active ingredients for supporting seafarer psychological wellbeing. However, there is some evidence that seafarers themselves have clear preferences around interventions, typically those with a physical focus or involving enhanced recreational activities. This suggests that employee voice should be a clear focus in order to manage differing expectations between stakeholders. Finally, the diversity of the existing evidence base may actually be a strength rather than a shortcoming. Developing different methods for curating and analysing existing work, such as methods of continuous comparison and conceptual innovation, may help to develop approaches and interventions by discovering novel points of communality and interest that span cases which would not otherwise be considered together.

Item Type: Research report for external body
Description: Commissioning body: Lloyd's Register Foundation
Creators: Brown, S.D., Dahill, D., Baczor, L., King, D., Smith, S. and Mainard-Sardon, J.
Publisher: Nottingham Trent University
Place of Publication: Nottingham
Date: 1 August 2022
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 10 Aug 2022 09:33
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2022 09:33

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