Vol 62, No 3 (2010)
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Published online: 2010-12-06

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The risk of coronary heart disease of seafarers on vessels sailing under a German flag

Marcus Oldenburg, Hans-Joachim Jensen, Ute Latza, Xaver Baur
IMH 2010;62(3):123-128.


Background. This study aimed to predict the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) among seafarers on German-flagged vessels and to assess the association of shipboard job duration at sea with the risk of CHD.
Material and methods. During the legally required medical fitness test for nautical service, 161 seafarers in Hamburg participated in a cross-sectional study which included an interview, blood sampling, and blood pressure measurements (response 84.9%). The predicted 10-year risk of an acute coronary event of the examined German seafarers aged 35 to 64 years (n = 46) was assessed in comparison with a sample of male German employees of the same age working ashore (PROCAM study). The number of independent CHD risk factors (according to the PROCAM study) was compared in the groups with ‘shorter’ and ‘longer’ median shipboard job duration at sea (15.0 years).
Results. The examined German seafarers had a similar age-standardized predicted 10-year CHD risk as the German reference population. Nearly all independent CHD risk factors were significantly more frequent in seamen with job duration at sea of ≥ 15 years than in those with < 15 years. After adjusting for age, the number of CHD risk factors was associated with job duration (OR 1.08 [95% CI 1.02-1.14] per year).
Conclusions. Seafarers on German-flagged ships have to attend a medical fitness test for nautical service every 2 years. Thus, it can be assumed that seafarers present a healthier population than employees ashore. In this study, however, CHD risk of seafarers was similar to that of the reference population. This may indicate that working onboard implies a high coronary risk. Furthermore, the study results suggest a tendency of increased risk of CHD among seafarers with longer job duration at sea.

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