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Flight attendants survey on jetlag and No-Jet-Lag
A survey was carried out in 1994 among New Zealand based flight
attendants regularly flying routes to Asia, the United States and Europe,
with the assistance of their union, FARSA. They were asked how many suffered from
jet-lag, what symptoms they suffered, and whether No-Jet-Lag
was effective in countering them.
A total of 228 flight attendants completed survey forms. These were professionals
with considerable experience of inter-continental flying, so it may seem surprising
that 96% of them reported experiencing the effects of jetlag on long-haul flights.
They then gave the following responses when asked whether they had suffered from
various specific symptoms of jet-lag:
Tiredness over the first five days after arrival -- 90% yes
Disorientation -- 53% yes
Dehydration -- 73% yes
Lack of energy and motivation -- 94% yes
Swelling of limbs -- 32% yes
Broken sleep after arrival -- 93% yes
Ear, nose, throat problems, colds or flu -- 70% yes
How effective was No-Jet-Lag in countering jetlag
symptoms for you?
Very good -- 32%
Good -- 43%
Fair -- 23%
Made no real difference -- 2%
Did you find No-Jet-Lag effective in countering tiredness
Yes -- 87%
No -- 13%
The above results were consistent with a US based survey which found that
94% of long distance travellers suffered from the effects of jetlag
and 45% considered the symptoms severely bothersome.
A survey was carried out among New Zealand-based flight attendants
regularly flying international passenger routes to Asia, the United States
and Europe, to determine how many suffered from jetlag and what symptoms
they experienced. The survey was conducted with a view to identifying the
symptoms that might most appropriately be targeted by a preparation
designed to alleviate jetlag among flight crew.
The survey was carried out by Miers Laboratories, a New Zealand company
which designs and markets homeopathic preparations. The questionnaire also
invited respondents to comment on the efficacy of a preparation designed to
counter jet-lag. (This was not a formal trial; results of an independent
controlled trial are currently in preparation for publication.)
Jet-lag is widely considered to be a curse of modern jet travel, resulting
in loss of working efficiency and holiday enjoyment, often for days after
arrival at destination.
A number of studies have shown that over 90% of long distance travellers
suffer from the effects of jet-lag. A major US study of long distance
travellers with United Airlines and British Airways found that 94% suffered
jet-lag symptoms, and 45% considered their symptoms severely bothersome (2).
An objective of our survey was to ascertain whether airline personnel, who
might be expected to have developed an "immunity" to jetlag and to be
aware of practical methods to counter some of its effects, suffered the
same symptoms as passengers.
Jet-lag is typically characterized by a number of well-known symptoms
easily recognized by the sufferer. They include:
Disruption to circadian rhythms caused by crossing time zones, which can
result in broken sleep, with the sufferer waking during the night and then
wanting to fall asleep during the day. The number of days this dysrhythmia
lasts has been observed to be about equal to the number of time zones
crossed. A study by Air New Zealand states that passengers crossing 12
times zones on a 26-hour flight require ten days to re-establish a normal
sleep pattern (1).
Fatigue, lasting for days after arrival. This is often accompanied by a
lack of concentration and motivation, especially for any activity that
requires effort or skill, such as driving, concentrated reading or business
Disorientation and vagueness. Respondents in our survey mentioned, for
example, having to return to their hotel room three times to check if they
had left the door locked.
In addition to the above symptoms of jetlag proper, the syndrome is made
worse by the physical effects of being confined in an airliner for hours:
Discomfort of legs and feet due to limbs swelling while flying, which in
some cases can prevent travellers wearing their normal shoes for up to 24
hours after arrival.
Dehydration due to the dry atmosphere aboard airliners, which can cause
headaches, dry skin and nasal irritation. This in turn can result in a
general feeling of unwellness and make the subject more susceptible to
colds or other infections.
The World Health Organization also cites jetlag as an aggravating factor
in cases of diarrhoea caused by microbiological contamination of water or
food, which it believes affects between 20% and 50% of travellers (3).
Since the biggest single cause of jetlag is crossing time zones, which
disrupts the body's circadian rhythms, the syndrome is most severely felt
when associated with east-west, west-east or transpolar flights. The
effects are made worse by variations in atmospheric pressure each time the
aircraft takes off and lands, and also by pre-flight stress, tiredness or
hangovers. Other factors that appear to exacerbate jetlag include the
dryness of the air supply aboard passenger aircraft, the temptation to
consume alcohol and to eat more than necessary during flight, and the lack
of body movement, especially in the legs and feet.
In our survey of New Zealand-based flight attendants rostered on
inter-continental flights, a questionnaire was sent to all long-haul
members of their union, the Flight Attendants and Related Services
Association, with an explanation of the purposes for which the research was
being carried out. Participation was voluntary, and 228 forms were
returned. The union facilitated the survey and encouraged members to
participate but did not attempt to influence the responses, which were
mailed direct to Miers Laboratories for analysis.
In response to the first question, "Have you suffered from jetlag while travelling on long distance flights?"
a high 96% said "yes", a result which is in line with responses in surveys
of long-haul passengers. This would tend to indicate that being regularly
exposed to and trained to cope with the strains of long-haul air travel does
not diminish the likelihood of experiencing jet-lag. However, the survey did
not attempt to quantify the severity of the symptoms of flight crew as compared
Flight attendants were then asked whether they commonly experienced
specific symptoms of jetlag during and after long-haul flights. Their
responses were as follows:
Tiredness over the first five days after arrival, 90%.
Aviation, Space and Environment Medicine
Following is the text of a report on the above survey as published in the
official journal of the Aerospace Medical Association, vol. 69 no. 8, August 1998.
Do professionals get jet-lag?
A commentary on jet-lag
Interrupted sleep after arrival, 93%.
Lack of energy and motivation, 94%.
Swelling of limbs, 32%.
Ear, nose, throat problems, colds or flu, 70%.
Circadian dysrhythmia is thus experienced by about the same proportion of
flying professionals as of passengers. This appears to contradict the often
heard claim that frequent travellers develop an ability to overcome this
Another noteworthy finding was that a very high 73% of flight attendants
experienced dehydration. Dehydration in flight can be largely countered by
regular drinking of water (as distinct from alcohol, coffee, fruit juice,
etc), and it appears the flight attendants had either not been told of this
in training or were not following recommended practice.
Also surprising was that 32% of flight attendants experienced swelling of
limbs, a symptom generally attributed to passenger immobility during long
flights. This may indicate that other factors such as changes in air
pressure or dehydration contribute to limb swelling.
In answer to the question "how effective was the homeopathic preparation, No-Jet-Lag in countering jetlag symptoms?"
75% of the 55 flight attendants who used No-Jet-Lag said it
was either good or very good in countering jetlag
1. Petrie K, Conaglen JV, Thompson L, Chamberlain K. Effect of melatonin on
jet-lag after long-haul flights. British Medical Journal 1989; 298:705-707.
2. The Upjohn Company. Tips for Overcoming jetlag (leaflet). Kalamazoo, MI:
The Upjohn Co., nd.
3. WHO, Geneva. Safe Food for Travellers: WHO's Recommendations (leaflet).
28 June 1994.