Dr Lawrence Palinkas, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA and Dr Peter Suedfeld, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, did a review of published data on polar expeditions, specifically focussing on psychological or social dimensions of behaviour.
The authors say: “Polar expeditions include treks and stays at summer camps or year-around research stations. People on such expeditions generally undergo psychological changes resulting from exposure to long periods of isolation and confinement, and the extreme physical environment. Symptoms include disturbed sleep, impaired cognitive ability negative affect, and interpersonal tension and conflict.”
Factors on expeditions which can cause stress include great physical exertion, fatigue and exhaustion. Polar environments are also filled with hazards such as very cold temperatures, crevasses, blizzards, slippery ice and frozen lakes, adding to the risk of accidental injury or death. Cycles of night and day are more extreme than at lower latitudes, with six months of light followed by six months of darkness at the poles, disrupting the body clock (circadian rhythms). The sheer isolation of the environment can also lead to emotional deprivation, and social confinement. The authors say: “Absence of privacy and constant gossip are frequent on polar expeditions and have a negative effect on social relations, especially relations between men and women.”
These stresses can cause various symptoms. Sleep disruption is common, with one study of Russian miners in Svalbard, Norway, reporting 88% of men and 77% of women as having had sleeping problems lasting at least two weeks. Memory loss, difficulty in concentrating, reduced alertness, and depression are also common. Although teams on polar expeditions have great social cohesion due to common goals, interpersonal conflict is the greatest source of tension in polar expeditions.
The symptoms can be divided into three main “syndromes”. The cluster of symptoms comprising sleep disturbance, impaired cognition, negative effect, tension and conflict is known as winter-over syndrome. It is best described a subclinical condition similar to subclinical depression. Symptoms are usually worse in the middle of an expedition, when people realise they are only half way through, and then generally improve thereafter.
Changes in thyroid function (polar T3 syndrome) also affect the moods people on expeditions, and mimic the seasonal highs and lows of serum thyrotropin-stimulating hormone seen at the poles, while subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder is related to variations in patterns of light and darkness.
However, polar expeditioners are just as likely, if not more so, to have a positive reaction to their experience. Many will enjoy the situation itself, and enjoy positive reactions to challenges of the environment and having encountered and successfully surmounted these challenges. The authors found frequent references to “the beauty and grandeur of the land, ice, and sea, the camaraderie and mutual support of the team, the admirable qualities of their leader, and the thrill of facing and overcoming the challenges of the environment.” They add that many people volunteer for repeated expeditions, proving the benefit of the experience.
The authors conclude that both detrimental (pathogenic) and helpful (salutogenic) experiences are common for people on polar expeditions. They say: “Prevention of pathological psychogenic outcomes is best accomplished by psychological and psychiatric screening procedures to select out unsuitable candidates, and by providing access to psychological support, including telephone counselling. Promotion of salutogenic experiences is best accomplished by screening for suitable personality traits, and training participants in individual coping strategies, group interaction, and team leadership.”
Tony Kirby | alfa
Organ-on-a-chip mimics heart's biomechanical properties
23.02.2017 | Vanderbilt University
Researchers identify cause of hereditary skeletal muscle disorder
22.02.2017 | Klinikum der Universität München
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences
23.02.2017 | Life Sciences