Health Promotion at Sea

A project that aims to improve the lifestyle and well-being of seafarers


Health has been a central concept in the public debate and is put on the political agenda as a result of increased health problems in the population related to obesity, physical inactivity and smoking. Health promotion initiatives have been put in place everywhere in Denmark to combat this negative trend. This development has also affected the maritime industry. Studies show that compared to land-based industries shipping is a risky business with a higher incidence of mortality and morbidity among young and middle-aged seafarers. This trend is partly due to an increased rate of accidents, but also very much an increased prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases such as heart diseases, lung cancer and diseases related to alcohol. Compared with the general population, smoking and especially the proportion of heavy smokers is more common among seafarers, as is the proportion of overweight and obesity. Inequalities in health between the seafarers and the population as a whole is not in itself a novelty, but there is a lack of knowledge of what actually causes the health inequality, knowledge of the health-promoting methods that work, and how best to implement and maintain these methods for the seafarers.

The focus of the study is seafarers employed in two shipping companies: Royal Arctic Line and Esvagt A/S. The aim is to contribute with new knowledge and best-practice methods for the promotion and protection of seafarers' health and well-being at sea as well as in home periods. Focus will be on work organization, work environment and the integration of health promotion interventions in the maritime setting. The study will be done partly through a survey of the seafarers’ health and well-being, and partly by offering health promotion interventions such as smoking cessation, healthy eating courses and training guidance in order to identify the applicability and effect of land-based health promotion interventions at sea.

The project is a development project, using repeated physiological tests and questionnaires in order to evaluate the process and impact of a range of health promotion interventions for each participant's lifestyle and physical capacity. Therefore health checks are offered the participants as a starting point and again at the end of the project.

Interventions offered to employees include: Physical activity, healthy eating courses, smoking cessation courses and personal interview on workplace well-being. Using process evaluation, survey, health profiling, participant observation and qualitative interviews the aim is to uncover how these interventions are best implemented, and how to remain the participants' efforts at sea as well as during home periods.

The following institutions participate
Esvagt A/S
Royal Arctic Line A/S
Seahealth Denmark
Crecea A/S

The project is funded by:
The Danish Maritime Fund,
Royal Arctic Line A/S and
Esvagt A/S

Timetable:     2007-2013 (PhD project from 2009-2013)

Completion:    The project is completed and defended 17th of January 2013

Download of PhD thesis without articles (PDF file)