The study, funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), urges cargo shipping companies to provide greater support for workers to help prevent conditions such as anxiety and depression.
This includes the provision of on-board amenities such as internet access, improved accommodation, and recreational activities.
More than 1,500 seafarers completed a questionnaire on their experiences for the research, while face-to-face interviews were conducted with a small group of seafarers, employers, maritime charities and other stakeholders.
Lack of internet access, long periods away from friends and family, poor accommodation and food were among the leading causes of concern for those working at sea.
Professor Helen Sampson, who led the study, says there is evidence that recent-onset psychological disorders are increasing among serving seafarers, yet more than half (55%) of employers said they had not introduced any policies or practices to address mental health for a decade.
When questioned in an interview about suffering from mental ill-health, one seafarer said: “Between pressure, workload, no days off and you are a gazillion miles away from home with limited communication, what do you think is going to happen?” Another said: “Three months on land is nothing. You can’t see your kids grow up, you can’t see anything. You are just like an uncle coming and going.”
Professor Sampson, Director of Cardiff University’s Seafarers International Research Centre, based in the School of Social Sciences, said: “It is all too easy for seafarers working out on the deep ocean to be invisible to those ashore. Their remoteness allows for abuse to go undetected. Sometimes seafarers are subjected to bullying and harassment by superiors and colleagues on board. However many employers also mistreat seafarers by failing to provide decent and humane living conditions which promote good mental wellbeing.”