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Mental Health Risks from Air-Travel

Given the global economy and the desire of families to search the world for vacation hotspots, 9,000 mile air travels and even daily commutes are becoming commonplace.

A new report finds that long-distance air travel can lead to a disruption in body rhythms causing psychotic and mood disorders.

The study, published in The Lancet, includes a meta-review of over 500 published articles on aviation and health by researchers from John Moores University.

The affect of travel fatigue and jet lag may be profound. Decreased cognitive performance and mental health problems, including brief episodes of psychosis – loss of contact with reality were discovered by the researchers.

Researchers recommend switching to the new destination’s time only if the journey is across more than three time zones and the stay is more than three days.

Additional advice to limit travel fatigue and jet lag include deliberately seeking or avoiding light at the new destination to help the body clock adjust. Also, caffeine and exercise can help with staying awake when fatigue sets in.

However, the authors caution that there is no cure to prevent jet lag and warn against the use of unlicensed drugs such melatonin – the hormone secreted during sleep.

Jet lag symptoms include:

    Poor sleep

    Poor concentration

    Headaches, fatigue and irritability

    Indigestion and altered appetite

Flights east generally caused worse symptoms than those westbound. A general rule of thumb is that the number of days needed to recover is equal to two thirds of the time zones crossed. With westbound flights the number is half the time zones crossed.

Source: The Lancet

Mental Health Risks from Air-Travel
APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Mental Health Risks from Air-Travel. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 16, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.