Report sets out women seafarers’ health and wellbeing concerns

A new report designed to identify key areas of concern for women seafarers will be the centrepiece of a meeting on the health and wellbeing of women working at sea, to be held in London today.

The new Women Seafarers’ Health and Welfare Survey is a joint initiative by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), and the Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS).

The report of the Women Seafarers’ Health and Welfare Survey is being launched alongside the meeting .

Among the findings of the survey, which was completed by 595 women seafarers, are that nearly half of all respondents reported that joint/back pain and stress/depression/anxiety were the biggest health challenges they faced, while the biggest issue preventing women seafarers’ accessing healthcare while at sea was lack of confidentiality.

They also said that over half of respondents would welcome routine wellness checks.

ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith said, “This survey underlines how relatively little research there has been so far into women’s working lives at sea. It helps fill those gaps and shows how much more has to be done for us to see the number of women at sea break out of the current and unacceptable one to two percent of the workforce.

“We particularly welcome the fact that the survey points to relatively inexpensive and easily instituted improvements that can help make that change possible: confidentiality, a focus on stress, better heath information.”

It is estimated that one to two percent of the world’s 1.25million seafarers are women, serving on some 87,000 ships, mostly in the cruise sector.

Research suggests that they continue to face discrimination and that there are areas where women seafarers’ specific needs are often overlooked, with health likely to be one such areas.

There has been a growing concern among health and welfare organisations that medical handbooks and other literature aimed at women seafarers are outdated and fail to provide a gendered perspective to health, or to consider health and related issues that are specific to women. 

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