This briefing note introduces the concept of flight crew personal well-being. It summarizes the complex process of attaining and maintaining well-being, focusing on how well-being can be lost, and proposes prevention and recovery strategies.
This briefing note is intended to help the reader gain and maintain well-being, prevent falling into the traps associated with the loss of well-being and avoid the negative effects of that loss on flight safety.
Usually referred to as occupational health, well-being covers people not only at work but also off duty. Any health problem can have a major impact on people’s lives and their ability to work.
The main components of well-being are:
- Physical well-being: fitness to fly, diet, etc.
- Off-duty well-being: family, exercise
- Quality of life: a subjective notion associated with a positive mood, vitality and the balancing of work and family
3 Issues and Factors Involved
3.1 Physical well-being
Fitness to fly
Flight crews are required to be well-rested and alert, and to hold a valid airman medical certificate. If an airline pilot does not have a first-class or second-class medical certificate, he or she cannot legally fly in commercial operations.
The importance of the medical certificate (including a yearly electrocardiogram after 40 years old) is a great incentive for most pilots to be health-conscious — to partake of a sensible diet and perform some exercise, the two most important health items.
Food and nutrition
Good dietary requirements are relatively simple: a good balance among protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and water.
Exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance. It can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and lower blood pressure. On the psychological side, exercise gives an increase in self-esteem and improves an individual’s overall sense of well-being.
There are four types of exercise:
- Aerobic. Additional oxygen is taken in to meet the body’s increased demand during such activities as jogging to increase cardiovascular and respiratory fitness.
- Isometric (or anaerobic). Muscles exerts pressure on an immovable object, but the body does not move. Isometric exercise increases muscle strength but not cardiovascular fitness or endurance.
- Isotonic. There is body movement, but muscle tension remains constant, as in weight lifting. It increases muscle strength, size and endurance.
- Isokinetic. A combination of isometric and isotonic exercise that requires special equipment.
There is general agreement that aerobic exercise is the most beneficial. It should be done 15 to 60 minutes a day for at least three days per week.
3.2 Off-duty well-being and quality of life
Balancing work and family
Managing multiple roles day in and day out is challenging. Combining work and family is a frequently used strategy. Specifically, this could involve the employee, spouse and children setting up a meeting room, registering participants, handing out materials and cleaning up after the event. More often, employees involve their spouse and/or family in work-related travel, ranging from day trips to longer conferences.
Another factor to be considered is commuting to and from work. This comes from personal, economic or other reasons resulting in substantial travel time before or after work. There is a general trend recognizing scheduled commuting as duty time as far as fatigue is concerned.
The U.S. Air Transport Association (ATA) indicates that almost half of the pilots at the largest U.S. airlines have commuting distances more than 900 miles one way. A long commute may have serious consequences on the quality of life of the affected individuals and their families. No accidents have been directly or indirectly related to pilots commuting. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not in a position to regulate pilots’ free time and where they live. Commuting remains a pilot’s personal decision, and he or she is responsible to ensure that he or she is rested and fit to fly.
4 Preventing Loss of Well-Being
4.1 Food and nutrition:
Adequate nutrients within calorie needs
- Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages within and among the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit the intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sugar, salt and alcohol.
- Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern.
- To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended.
- To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in food and beverage calories and increase physical activity.
- Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being and a healthy body weight.
- To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood, engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at work or home on most days.
- Most people obtain greater health benefits by engaging in more vigorous or longer physical activity.
- Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.
Food groups to favor
- Consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables while staying within energy needs. Two cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day are recommended for a 2,000-calorie diet, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level.
- Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. In particular, select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy and other vegetables) several times a week.
- Consume three or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.
- Consume three cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or equivalent milk products.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids and less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol; keep trans fat consumption as low as possible.
- Keep total fat intake from 20 to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated sources such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
- When selecting meat, poultry, dry beans and milk or milk products, choose those that are lean, low-fat or fat-free.
- Limit intake of fats and oils high in saturated or trans fats, and choose products low in such fats and oils.
- Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains often.
- Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little added sugar or caloric sweeteners.
- Reduce the incidence of dental cavities by practicing good oral hygiene and consuming sugar- and starch-containing foods and beverages less frequently.
Sodium and potassium
- Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon) of sodium per day.
- Choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation — defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
- Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed by some individuals, including those who cannot restrict their alcohol intake, women of childbearing age who may become pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents, individuals taking medications that can interact with alcohol, and those with specific medical conditions.
- Alcoholic beverages should be avoided by individuals engaging in activities that require attention, skill or coordination, such as driving or operating machinery.
- To avoid microbial, foodborne illness:
- Clean hands, food contact surfaces and fruits and vegetables. Meat should not be washed.
- Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing or storing foods.
- Cook foods to a safe temperature to kill micro-organisms.
- Refrigerate perishable food promptly and defrost foods properly.
- Avoid unpasteurized milk or any products made from it, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat and poultry, unpasteurized juices, and raw sprouts.
4.2 Off-duty well-being
Make the family the first priority. "Weekends are reserved for family and friends." Other family-centered strategies include:
- Eat meals at regular hours so the family can be together.
- Share household tasks and child care.
- Videotape missed children's events, then watch the tape together as a family.
- Participate as a family in church and other social, non-work organizations.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Calendar scheduling is a widely used strategy. Using one calendar for scheduling work, family and personal dates (sometimes called a creative calendar) is a good way to get an overview.
5 Key Points
For food and nutrition, there are three basic common-sense rules:
Rule no. 1: Eat a wide variety of food in order to take advantage of the different nutrients.
Rule no. 2: Fruits, vegetables and grains should make up more than half of the calories consumed. They are high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, low in fat and cholesterol-free.
Rule no. 3: Maintain a balance between caloric intake and caloric expenditure.
"Leave work at work."
Saying "no" when necessary is another strategy for well-being.
6 Associated OGHFA Material
7 Website References