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Alarm clock on bed in morning with sun light

Flight Attendant Rest Times Increased!

After over 20 years of research and advocacy, U.S. flight attendants have been successful in raising their minimum rest times between shifts to from 8 to 10 hours. This occurred due to the passing of the FAA re-authorization bill in October of 2018. This is a substantial increase over the earlier 8-hour minimum rest time, which does not include deplaning, boarding passengers, or traveling to and from the airport. It only includes time between landing and the next take-off, so an 8-hour minimum rest time could easily result in getting just a few hours of actual rest or sleep between flights.

In contrast, a 10-hour mandatory rest period is the same as that guaranteed to pilots, and rightfully recognizes flight attendants’ crucial role in protecting the safety and security of passengers. It also a great development given research into cabin crew fatigue, Circadian rhythm disruption, sleep disorders, and associated health effects, such as depression or possibly even cancer and cardiovascular disease. The Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study has reported that U.S. flight attendants have higher rates of fatigue, diagnosed sleep disorders, and depression relative to employed people in the U.S. general population, despite being healthier overall in terms of weight, smoking, blood pressure, and other factors related to overall health and healthy lifestyle choices.

See our publications: The self-reported health of U.S. flight attendants compared to the general population

and Estimating the health consequences of flight attendant work: comparing flight attendant health to the general population in a cross-sectional study

Flight - airline passenger seat with flight attendant in the background

Could My Flight Attendant Uniform Be Associated With My Wellbeing?

Alaska Airline flight attendants reported health complaints related to new uniforms rolled out in 2011 (1). By 2014, approximately 800 flight attendants had complained about how the new uniforms were negatively impacting their health, which led to Alaska Airlines recalling the uniforms, though without acknowledging harm. These flight attendants had reported a wide range of sometimes debilitating symptoms, including dry and itchy eyes, eye pain, blurred vision, sinus congestion and pain, ear pain, ear drum rupture, ear infections, nosebleeds, persistent runny nose and sore throat, ringing ears, cough, hoarseness/loss of voice, wheezing, lung infection symptoms, asthma symptoms, bronchitis symptoms, shortness of breath, multiple chemical sensitivity symptoms, itchy/irritated skin, and rashes/hives (2). The research recently published by Dr. McNeely and colleagues suggests these health symptoms could be associated with the uniforms, based on data from before, during, and after use of the uniforms among Alaska Airlines flight attendants.

In 2016, American Airlines flight attendants started to complain about health symptoms after switching to uniforms manufactured by the same company that produced the 2011 Alaska Airline uniforms.

Dr. Mordukhovich, one of the study’s authors, suggests the next step to solve this mystery is to conduct rigorous and comprehensive testing of uniforms, which is currently taking place through the Harvard School of Public Health.

 

1. Air Safety, Health and Security Department. Air Safety, Health and security department. 2017. http://ashsd.afacwa.org/?zone=%2Funionactive%2Fview_article.cfm&HomeID=160011. Accessed May 2018.
2. McNeely, et. al. Symptoms Related to New Flight attendant Uniforms. BMC Public Health (2017). Accessed May 2018

Meditative Movement - Peter Payne

New Dartmouth FA Health Study: Is this one for you?

Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study

Washington Dulles – Oct. 22-24

 

Come and visit us in Washington, Dulles Airport from October 22-24. We will be located in the United terminal.

2007 Flight Attendant Health Study Results

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health conducted a landmark study in 2007 on this subject, and follow-up today is needed to understand trends in flight attendant health over time.

  • Over 4,000 flight attendants participated in the first study. Help us exceed this number.
  • The prevalence of respiratory disease amongst Flight Attendants was approximately three times that found in the general U.S. population.
  • In addition, sleep disorders, fatigue, depression and heart disease were greatly increased in female Flight Attendants compared to the U.S. population.
  • Release of the FAA Report (Coming Soon!)  Read our presentation at the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology conference, Barcelona, Spain 2011

Take me to the journal article online

Download pdf: Air Transportation and Flight Attendant Health

Join the current updated Flight Attendant Health Study

 

A demonstration of the Qigong movement entitled: Drawing Down The Moon

What is Qigong, and what does it have to do with Flight Attendants? –We’re glad you asked!

What is Qigong, and what does it have to do with Flight Attendants? –We’re glad you asked!

Qigong is a traditional Chinese health practice; its roots go back at least 5000 years. Like Yoga? Yes, but Qigong has its own unique methods and is increasingly gaining popular and scientific recognition as a powerful and sophisticated way of dealing with a number of health problems including respiratory problems, bone density and the effects of stress.

Research into Flight Attendant health has confirmed what you all know already: Flight Attendants experience a wide variety of extreme stressors. From the need to remain vigilant to safety issues, to poor cabin air, physically difficult working conditions, crazy schedules, jet lag, demanding passengers and (until smoking was banned in commercial aircraft) second-hand cigarette smoke.  You know how it is!

These different stressors can affect the body at the time of the event. Some continue to influence health for decades after the event.  They impact multiple systems in the body, so one strategy is to find effective interventions that can work on the whole body to reduce imbalances that have adverse effects on health.

Qigong appears to be one of the best candidates! You see, stress operates through its influence on the “autonomic nervous system” (ANS)–that part of the nervous system that regulates blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and even some parts of the immune system. When we are in a stressful situation, the ANS helps us deal with it by activating, enabling us to be more alert, stronger, quicker, and to ignore the demands of our own body. But if the stress is too great, or goes on for too long, our ANS may be unable to come back into balance and allow us to recuperate. This “accumulated stress” makes us feel tense, or sometimes numb to our own bodies.  In the long run when the ANS is out of balance, it can lead to symptoms: high or low blood pressure, heart disease, breathing restriction, depression or anxiety, and even cancer or immune system disorders!

So where does Qigong come in? Well, it turns out that Qigong is a way of learning to consciously regulate the ANS; in other words, Qigong shows you how to restore balance to your autonomic nervous system, shedding the accumulated stress and enabling your breathing, circulation, digestion, immune system, and even your mood and energy levels, to return to normal.

How does it accomplish this seeming miracle? Qigong draws on a sophisticated “inner know-how”, developed over thousands of years, and recently validated by scientific research. It uses slow gentle movement, accompanied by breathing and focusing the mind in specific ways, to restore the “energy flow” in the body and mind–another way of saying “to balance the nervous system”. You can see a couple of video examples of Qigong exercises here; these are safe and enjoyable, and will reliably help you release excess stress. (insert link to video) Enjoy!

Now, although we know from countless stories about the power of Qigong, and we also know from scientific research that many of its claims are valid, this is not enough for us to be able to say with certainty that it will help Flight Attendants with their accumulated health problems. We were recently funded by the Flight Attendants Medical Research Institute (FAMRI) to find out for sure.  We expect to announce the opening of this study in the Fall of 2014.

In the short term, if you are a flight attendant who flew for at least 5 years prior to the smoking ban and who was not a voluntary smoker, you can participate in a screening study that is being conducted by
Mardi Crane-Godreau and Peter Payne.

Feel free to leave a message  at 1-603-653-9970 or send them an email them at
Margaret.A.Crane@Dartmouth.edu

You can also enter your own work and health history at this link.

Kathleen Cheney

Flight Attendants Making a Difference: The Kathie Cheney Story

Flight Attendants Making a Difference: The Kathie Cheney Story

In this compelling video produced by the Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, former flight attendant Kathie Cheney describes her experience on smoke-filled flights, her diagnosis with “smokers’ throat” and subsequent surgery.