Health survey of U.S. Navy divers from 1960 to 1990: A first look

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Health survey of U.S. Navy divers from 1960 to 1990: A first look

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Title: Health survey of U.S. Navy divers from 1960 to 1990: A first look
Author: Chung, J; Brugger, J; Curley, M; Wallick, M; Perkins, R; Regis, D; Latson, G
Abstract: After a records search identified men and women who, on active duty between 1960 and 1990, had served as U.S. Navy divers performing saturation, experimental, or both saturation and experimental dives, their current health status was surveyed. During that period, others from the fleet diver population whom the search did not identify as having performed either saturation or experimental dives served as a fourth group, a reference comparison group. When all the divers (n=5,422) were mailed invitations to participate, 33% (n=1,792) agreed to complete a self-report survey requesting information on their lifestyle behaviors, occupational histories, diving exposures, and the statuses of their current health, physical activity, and cognitive functioning. The final participation rate (surveys used / mailed invitations) was 27.5%. From this study group of enlisted (60%), warrant officer (5%), and commissioned officer (35%) personnel, the surveys of 1,475 male and 15 female divers (92% military retirees and 8% active duty members) were analyzed. These divers served an average of 24 active duty years, with an average of 18 years of active duty diving. Their average age was 56. Married divers represented 87% of the participants; divorced or widowed, 11%; and never married, 1%. Of all these divers, 60% now receive disability compensation. One in five divers had experienced pain-only decompression sickness (DCS); one in seven, neurological DCS. One in four said that, within 24 hours of a dive, they had suffered pain or neurological symptoms for which they had not sought treatment; symptoms had failed to resolve for 6% of these divers. Overall, 41% of the divers had experienced one or more of nine dive-related injuries. Fifty-four percent of the divers had reported a lost-time (longer than three days) accident at work, and 62% had been deployed to a theater of combat operations. The most frequently reported medical conditions were joint pain or muscle stiffness (63%), back or neck pain (59%), impaired hearing (39%), and forgetfulness (15%). Divers most frequently were diagnosed with sports injury (65%), arthritis (57%), skin disease (53%), high blood pressure (41%), allergies (40%), and head injury (29%). Seven percent of the reporting divers already had undergone a joint replacement. Their average age at a first joint replacement was 55; 23% of all divers had been told that they would need a total joint replacement in the future. In rating their general health, 86% of the divers said that it was Excellent, Very Good, or Good. In relation to the normative health of the general population, however, these Navy divers reported slightly better mental — but poorer physical — health. Factors associated with diver reports of poorer health included DCS, number of Navy dives, lost-time accidents at work, underwater explosions, head injuries, and work as a welder. Overall, most health-related comparisons among the four diving groups found no significant differences. However, divers performing both saturation and experimental dives reported significantly higher rates of muscle weakness or tremor, impaired hearing, and pain interfering with their normal work than divers in the other groups.
Description: Citation Status: Active; Citation Classification: Unclassified; Title Classification: Unclassified; Report Classification: Unclassified; Identifier Classification: Unclassified; Abstract Classification: Unclassified; Distribution Limitation(s): 01 - APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE; Information provided by the Department of Defense and the Defense Technical Information Center (http://www.dtic.mil/) is considered public information and may be distributed or copied unless otherwise specified. Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credits is requested.
URI: http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/10138
Date: 2011

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