Vol 56, No 1-4 (2005)
Published online: 2010-03-26

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Obesity among Danish seafarers

Jan L. Hoeyer, Henrik L. Hansen
IMH 2005;56(1-4):48-55.


Background - Danish seafarers have an excess of life style related diseases where obesity may be a factor. Obesity may in itself be a safety issue at sea.
Objectives – The purpose was to study overweight among male seafarers and determine the consequences if a maximum Body Mass Index (BMI) for seafarers is decided.
Methods - As part of the mandatory pre-employment health examination, height and weight of the seafarers are recorded and BMI calculated. From a register comprising all seafarers, basic information on each individual seafarer was obtained from the last employment period before the health examination. In this study, normal weight is defined as a BMI from 20 and up to 25, moderate overweight from 25 up to 30 and obesity from 30 and above.
Results – The study comprised 1 257 male seafarers. There were statistically significant more overweight seafarers in all age groups compared to a reference group ashore. Among those between 45 and 66 years of age 0.7 % had a weight below normal,22.7 % had normal weight and 76.6 % had a weight above normal, while 30.9% of this age group was obese.
Conclusion - The method is applicable as a tool for an objective description of seafarers’ health profile in a national and an international perspective. Overweight is found to be common and may influence the health of the seafarers and shipboard safety. Fixed BMI limits for seafarers on Danish ships would result in loss of license and that would have major implications even if the limit is set high.

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