Impact of work exposure on cognitive performance in Faroese deep-sea fishers: a field study

Annbjørg Selma Abrahamsen, Pál Weihe, Wessel M.A. van Leeuwen, Fróði Debes

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Background: This study examines the impact of work-related exposure on the cognitive performance of Faroese deep-sea fishers. Faroese fishing crews work long hours in demanding and noisy environments amidst highly uncertain and challenging weather conditions. These factors, together with compromised patterns of rest and sleep, are known to increase fatigue. Our aim was to study if changes could be measured in fishers’ cognitive performance at the end of the trip when compared with the baseline measure at the beginning.
Materials and methods: Data was collected over 15 months (May 2017 to July 2018) from 157 fishers on 18 fishing trips which involved 202 investigative days on board. Questionnaires and six computerised cognitive tests: Simple Reaction Time, Numeric Working Memory, Corsi Blocks, Rapid Visual Information Processing, Digit Vigilance, and Card Sorting Test were used for data collection at the beginning and end of the trip. Differences between the outcomes on the two test points were analysed with one-way ANOVA comparing the performances at the beginning and end of the voyage, and two-way ANOVA to examine the interactive effect of chronotype and test occasions on the outcomes. Mixed models were used to test for the effects of predictor variables.
Results: Significant declines in cognitive performance were observed from the beginning to the end of the trip, with decreases in visuospatial memory and reaction times, and increases in cognitive lapses. Furthermore, slowing in response times was observed in the second half of the Digit Vigilance test when comparing the halves.
Conclusions: Declines in performance were observed from the start to the end of the trip. Furthermore, fishers performed significantly worse in the second half of some parted tests, and evening types seem less influenced by irregular work hours. These findings call for improving the safety of the vessels and their crew.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-161
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Maritime Health Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • fishers
  • fatigue
  • cognitive decline
  • digit vigilance
  • simple reaction time
  • visuospatial memory
  • the psychomotor vigilance tests


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