Health status of professional divers and offshore oil industry workers

John A S Ross, Jennifer I Macdiarmid, Liesl M Osman, Stephen J Watt, David J Godden, Andrew Lawson, John Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: To compare the health status of UK professional divers and age-matched non-divers and to contrast offshore divers (OSDs) with non-offshore divers (NOSDs).
Methods: A postal survey sent to 2958 male professional divers, registered with the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) before 1991, and 2708 men who had worked in the offshore oil industry in 1990–92 (non-divers). The questionnaire addressed lifestyle, occupation and health status.
Results: In all, 56% of divers and 51% of non-divers responded. Three per cent of participants reported ill-health retirement or being off-work on sickness benefit with no difference between groups. Divers were less likely to report asthma or hypertension. Health-related quality of life (SF-12) was within normal limits for both groups but the mental component summary was higher in divers who were also less likely to be receiving medical treatment. Divers were more likely than non-divers to report ‘forgetfulness or loss of concentration’ (18% versus 6%, OR 3.8, 95% CI 2.7–5.3), musculoskeletal symptoms (41% versus 34%, OR 3.8, 95% CI 2.7–5.3) and ‘impaired hearing’ (16% versus 11%, OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.2–2.0). These differences were attributable to increased symptom reporting in OSDs and were not present for NOSDs, with the exception of cognitive symptomatology which was commoner in both OSDs (22%, OR 4.8, 95% CI 3.4–6.8) and NOSDs (9%, OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1–3.3) than in non-divers (6%).
Conclusions: There was increased symptom reporting in OSDs. However, there was no evidence to suggest any major impact on long-term health of UK divers who had started their career before 1991.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-261
Number of pages8
JournalOccupational Medicine
Issue number4
Early online date22 Feb 2007
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


  • Absenteeism
  • Diving
  • Extraction and Processing Industry
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases
  • Occupational Health
  • Petroleum
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life


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