Flight Attendant Health Studies
Flight attendants are aviation’s first responders whose primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the traveling public. Flight attendants have always worked under highly stressful conditions – in particular, during the time when smoking was still permitted on flights.
The Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI) supports research addressing the health of these dedicated professionals, and we have been honored to receive their support for our own research in this field. We thank FAMRI, and we invite all who have benefited from the Dartmouth Flight Attendant Health Studies at the Geisel School of Medicine to join us in thanks by contacting the organization at ekress[at]famri.org
We’ve conducted our studies in partnership with Harvard University School of Public Health and Health Research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Institute. Together, we provide retired, current and future flight attendants with the latest information and insights about their occupation-related health conditions.
Through the Flight Attendant Health Studies, we have run a series of clinical studies, gathering information on flight attendant health patterns, and developing and testing practices that may improve their health and well-being. In Phase I of our study, we trained flight attendants who had job-related smoke exposure how to use in Bodymind methods while doing everyday activities, and showed that these methods could lead to improved health.
Positive health outcomes included:
- reduced inflammatory markers in the blood stream
- improved endurance (as measured by the 6-minute walk test)
- reduced blood pressure
Peter demonstrating one of the practices we taught the Flight Attendants in this study.
Among other measures, Phase 1 showed a statistically significant 7% average reduction in systolic blood pressure over the 4 months of the study intervention.
Phase II of our study demonstrated that video and web-based training also improved participants’ health measures, such as
- improved endurance (as measured by the 6-minute walk test)
- dramatic and significant improvement in the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptom assessment test
- changes in hormone (DHEA) levels that suggested improved overall health
Six months after the study ended, many participants reported ongoing use of our methods, as well as improved health outcomes.
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Phase 2 Scores Demonstrate Improved Wellbeing
The MAIA measures positive body awareness, which correlates with ability to handle stress. The control group showed no change, while the Bodymind Training group improved by 24%.
Changes in fight-or-flight (autonomic) activation: Over 4 months, the control group became more tense on average, while the Bodymind Training group became calmer.
Respiratory function scores improved in the Bodymind Training group, while control group scores indicated decline in respiratory health over the same 4 month period.
The Six-minute Walk Test shows endurance. While the Bodymind practices include no conventional exercise, participants consistently show large increases in performance, while the control group shows a gradual decline.
What Participants Have Said
“What I particularly like about this program is that it has helped me become aware of walking, standing, sitting, breathing and consciously integrate them into my everyday life.”
“I think that self awareness is exactly what’s needed! So great of you both to have taught me so much. I think I am stronger and more aware of my body, and now I know that I have control to make healthier choices in work, etc. I can’t quit flying completely, but I can change the routes and amount of time in the air!”
“As a retired high school teacher and former flight attendant, my levels of stress have been greatly reduced! If situations occur that I feel I cannot control, I try to “step away”, practice the breathing and/or sitting and attempt to return to my “natural” state. I admire you all for your continued efforts in this interesting study. I appreciate the the time and cost of traveling to our respective cities as it is difficult for many of us to travel to you. Your project has been a huge undertaking and I wish you much more success! Hopefully the funding will continue so we can all participate in additional studies. Bravo! Well done!”
“My blood pressure has always been low. Over the past couple of years it has been slowly creeping up. It appears that this has reversed itself. I have also mentioned my TMJ is almost nonexistent at this point. Interesting. I am able to recognize the feeling of stress and to varying degrees I’m able to use breathing and standing to lessen the feeling.”
“The music & visual effects create a lovely tone of relaxation & also make the videos engaging & enjoyable to watch.”
“I am so happy that I had the breathing exercises to add to the “getting better” regimen recovering from pneumonia. Particularly helpful have been Drawing Down the Heavens, Embracing the Earth, Prolonging the Exhale and Hissing Breath. Those help bring up mucus that is deep down in my lungs. Yesterday tons of gunk came up! (I have bronchiecstasis).”
“The exercises i do most are the Shakeout for body loosening and awareness, and Basic Breathing for centering. I do the Shakeout daily, and incorporate the Basic Standing and Basic Sitting into daily life. I regularly incorporate Basic Standing and Sitting with PT exercises, yoga classes, and daily life. I continue to do the Basic Breathing during weekly yoga class. I am finding that the Basic Standing has helped my vocal technique as well.”
“I regularly do the Basic Standing, Sitting, and Breathing, Dropping the Weight. Helps with sleep. Very aware daily of balance, feet on ground, I like the foot thing, feels really good. I am thinking of the practices every day and try to incorporate breathing, moving, standing many times. I find it very helpful.”
“I feel these exercises would enhance a health program for any individual as well as possibly become a therapeutic model for patients with behavioral disorders.”
“No one lives a totally crisis free life, so I have noticed Qi Gong’s benefits when I’ve needed to return to the Natural State after life throws those curve balls.”
“…because life is so busy, I prefer the convenience of the videos.”
“Learning and doing the practice is now part of my daily life. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to participate and learn this valuable practice. I am so much more conscious of how my body reflects what is going on in my head. Several times each day, I will feel my body slumping (not good for shoulders or back), and go into the sitting or standing practice right away. Lying without form and breathing are like magic in getting me to sleep. The breathing practice and the hissing breath as well as the shakeout and drawing down help with anxiety. I tend to do the walking practice when I am walking for exercise and use those steps in helping me take in my surroundings while feeling very grounded.”