An Ocean of Stress? The relationship between psychosocial workload and mental strain among engine officers in the Swedish merchant fleet
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2010

Objectives. The first purpose of this study was to compare the psychosocial working conditions and mental health of our sample of maritime engine officers with a sample of British shorebased professional engineers. The second purpose was to analyse the relationship between the psychosocial working conditions onboard and mental strain for the Swedish maritime engine officers. Material and methods. There were a total of 731 engine officers in the Swedish merchant fleet, almost all males with higher education. The British comparison sample consisted of consisted 312 professional shore-based engineers. A questionnaire was distributed to the Swedish engine officers with a modified version of the JCQ for the DC-S model, the Role conflict and Ambiguity scale, and two items on family–work inter-role conflicts (WFI/FWI), as workload indicators. The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ12) and Perceived Stress Scale (PSS10) were used as strain indicators. Results. There were no significant differences in perceived job stain or in WFI/FWI between the Swedish engine officers and the British professional engineers in perceived job strain. While the British shore-based engineers reported significantly higher role ambiguity the Swedish engine officers perceived a significantly higher degree of role conflict and higher perceived stress. Hierarchic linear regression analysis showed that the Role Stress was strongly related to perceived stress (R2 = 0.319) as well as to mental health (R2 = 0.222). When introduced in the second step the DC-S model was significantly related to the outcome measures, as was WFI/FWI when finally introduced. Conclusions. The main source of the high degree of perceived stress among the engine officers does not seem to be the job content but may rather be understood from an interactional perspective, where conflicting requirements are directed towards the individual officer. It can be assumed that the fast technological and organizational changes and the increased pressure for economic profitability that characterize the shipping industry have attenuated these role conflicts.

job content

engine officers

work–family conflict

role conflict



Leif Rydstedt

Monica Lundh

Chalmers, Sjöfart och marin teknik

International maritime health

1641-9251 (ISSN)

Vol. 61




Tillämpad psykologi