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Hospitalisations among seafarers on merchant ships
  1. H L Hansen1,
  2. F Tüchsen2,
  3. H Hannerz2
  1. 1Medical Office of Health, Vejle County, Denmark
  2. 2National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr H L Hansen
 Vedelsgade 17A, DK-7100 Vejle, Denmark;


Aims: To study morbidity among active seafarers in the merchant navy in order to clarify possible work related morbidity and the morbidity related to work and lifestyle where possible preventive measures may be initiated.

Methods: From a register in the Danish Maritime Authority a cohort of Danish merchant seafarers who had been actively employed at sea in 1995 was identified. For each seafarer, information on all employment periods at sea, charge aboard, and ship was available. The cohort was linked with the National In-patient Register in Denmark. Standardised hospitalisation ratios (SHRs) were calculated for all major diagnostic groups using all gainfully employed as reference.

Results: Seafarers were shown to be inhomogeneous, with significant differences in SHRs for the same disease groups between different groups of seafarers depending on charge and ship type. SHRs for lifestyle related diseases were high, although rates for acute conditions, such as acute myocardial infarction, were low, probably due to referral bias, as acute conditions are likely to cause hospitalisation abroad, and thus are not included in the study. SHRs for injury and poisoning were high, especially for ratings and officers aboard small ships.

Conclusion: Despite pre-employment selection, a large proportion of the seafarers constitute a group of workers with evidence of poor health probably caused by lifestyle. The subgroups with high risk of hospitalisation due to lifestyle related diseases also had an increased risk of hospitalisation due to injury and poisoning.

  • fishermen
  • hospitalisation
  • lifestyle
  • maritime medicine
  • seafarers

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