There’s a growing link between onboard connectivity and seafarer happiness levels, according to the latest Seafarer Happiness Index report from charity group the Mission to Seafarers.
The report is based on the findings of a recent survey conducted by the Mission between January and March this year, in which seafarers were asked to rate their happiness out of ten on a variety of measures.
A key finding of the report was the issue of contact with family and loved ones, with seafarers showing an overwhelming need for better internet access that allows them to keep in touch with those back home. The report showed a stark divide between seafarers working on ships where internet access was available, who registered much higher happiness levels, and those working on ships with limited or no access, who identified as significantly unhappier.
A number of respondents spoke of the joy and relief that being in contact with home brings. When asked about connectivity at sea, one seafarer responded: “Contacting family gives me the enthusiasm and positivity about life and work at sea. Hearing from them is a good source of strength and motivation despite the isolation we feel when we are away.”
Connectivity was also an important factor in the happiness levels of female crew, with some saying that connection to family and friends at home can ease feelings of loneliness and isolation, and help them to deal with the pressures of being the only woman on board.
Steven Jones, founder of the Seafarers Happiness Index, commented, “Although overall we still see that the industry is still struggling with seafarer happiness, these findings represent a very real opportunity for shipping companies to achieve a ‘quick win’ for welfare. Increased access to Wi-Fi on board can make an instant and measurable difference to seafarer happiness, and happier employees means fewer sick-days, fewer accidents, better employee retention and a positive reputation for the employer. A clear benefit to owners and seafarers alike.”
“We must also consider the negative flip-side. We know that there's a significant mental health problem within the seafarer community. Lack of communication with family and friends can leave seafarers isolated, leading to feelings of loneliness and depression. Improving connectivity could, therefore, be seen as a duty of care more than a benefit.”
The Seafarers Happiness Index is part of the Mission’s ongoing research into seafarer happiness levels. Overall, seafarer happiness was rated as 6.72 – an increase of almost seven per cent on the last report published in March 2018. This result places crews in the ‘struggling zone’ on the UN Happiness Reports’ Catril Scale. The UN reports that people at this level of happiness are prone to more than double the amount of sick days and are more likely to smoke and eat an unhealthy diet.
The Seafarers Happiness Index is run every quarter, and the Mission encourages seafarers to retake the survey regularly so that change in individual circumstances is reflected in the findings. Seafarers can participate in the Q2 2018 survey online here. The full Q1 report can be accessed here.