New study assessed the pilots' mental health with a focus on depression and suicidal thoughts and found that airline pilots may be clinically suffering from depression and some even report having suicidal thoughts.
The findings conducted by the research team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US, published in journal of Environmental Health, came a year and a half after a Germanwings co-pilot, who suffered from depression deliberately crashed a plane into the French Alps, killing 150 people.
"We found that many pilots currently flying are managing depressive symptoms and it may be that they are not seeking treatment due to the fear of negative career impacts," said senior study author Joseph Allen. "There is a veil of secrecy around mental health issues in the cockpit. By using an anonymous survey, we were able to guard against people's fears of reporting due to stigma and job discrimination," Allen added. For the study, out of nearly 3,500 who participated in the survey, 1,848 completed the questions about mental health.
Female pilots were more likely than male pilots to have at least one day of poor mental health during the previous month, and were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression. "Our study hints at the prevalence of depression among pilots--a group of professionals that is responsible for thousands of lives every day--and underscores the importance of accurately assessing pilots' mental health and increasing support for preventative treatment," said Alex Wu, a doctoral student at Harvard Chan School and first author on the paper.