Study: Airline Pilots Suffer From Depression Twice As Much As The Rest Of The US

Kyle Perisic | Contributor

Commercial airline pilots suffer from depression rates more than double the national average.

Recent research systematically reviewed 20 studies related to the mental health of trends in commercial pilots, including depression, suicide, substance abuse, and fatigue.

The study shows that 1.9 to 12.6 percent of commercial airline pilots around the world suffer from depression — almost double the U.S. rate of approximately 6.7 percent, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The study also shows that 4 percent of pilots have suicidal thoughts.

“These figures oppose previous beliefs that the mental health of commercial airline pilots is better than the general population,” the study says. “This also implies that potentially hundreds of active pilots currently flying may be experiencing unreported mental health disorders, including suicidal ideation.”

“Factors that negatively impacted the mental health of pilots included substance abuse, experiencing verbal or sexual abuse, disruption in sleep circadian rhythms and fatigue,” according to the study, published by Frontiers in Psychiatry(RELATED: Study: Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals)

Following a 2015 flight disaster wherein a co-pilot may have intentionally crashed the plane in a suicide attempt, killing 150 passengers, the research “highlights the importance of better understanding the mental health of commercial airline pilots.”

In another publicized example of a pilot gone rogue, the missing Malaysian airlines Boeing 777 may have been the result of the intentionally crashing the plane into the Indian Ocean on March 2014 in a murder-suicide of 239 passengers, The Daily Caller reported.

Other related crashes include a SilkAir Flight in 1997 crash that killed 104 passengers and a EgyptAir crash in 1999 which killed 217 passengers.

Aircraft-assisted suicide is still rare, but suicide and mood disorders are not. According to the study, more than 90 percent of suicide victims “experience at least one major mental disorder, with major depressive disorder (MDD) being the most common.”

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