About the Flight Attendant Health Study

Studies have shown a plethora of health effects from flying—reduced respiratory and cardiovascular health, increased breast cancer, melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma risk, and higher rates of musculoskeletal conditions, ALS, anxiety, depression, and fatigue disorders.

The research we conduct as part of the Flight Attendant Health Study in particular shows this population of workers to have higher rates of health conditions including chronic bronchitis, skin and reproductive cancers, fatigue disorders, depression, and anxiety.

We are continuing to study the mechanisms underlying these associations. Here are several ways we are studying this understudied group:

  1. Identifying how past exposure to second hand smoke in the cabin affects health today.
  2. Studying the effects of flight attendants’ psychological/social environments on mental health and musculoskeletal health.
  3. Understanding the impact of the cabin environment on health and performance in flight. We developed the Flight Health app to measure information about cardiac, respiratory, and blood oxygen parameters, a range of self-reported health and well-being symptoms, and processing measured by the PVSAT test. Our goal is to understand the pathways through which flight affects health, and is complementary to our research regarding cardiac, respiratory and blood oxygen measures with respect to oxygenation to an equivalent of 7,000 feet in a chamber study of flight exposure conditions.
  4. Conducting interdisciplinary research in molecular and cellular biology, epidemiology, and environmental health to understand how flight attendants’ combined environmental exposures impact DNA repair capacity.
  5. Evaluating the health effects of flight attendant uniforms, after thousands of flight attendants reported health complaints such as severe skin rash, respiratory symptoms, fatigue, and thyroid disease, which our work has also observed. Our group has conducted laboratory screenings on these garments and detected the presence of metals, sensitizers, and allergenic dyes. We are currently working to evaluate the synergistic effects of these exposures.

We encourage current and retired flight attendants to sign up to find out how you and your colleagues can participate in this important study, to learn more about our research findings to date and to see how news media are covering the study.