Exploring the Explorers: Mood and Mental Health at the Polish Polar Station, Hornsund What can they tell us about the effects of polar night?

Lead Author Anna G. M., Temp
Institution Contact 1) University of Edinburgh Old College, South Bridge Edinburgh EH8 9YL Scotland 2) Institute of Geophysics, ul. Pasteura 7, 02-093 Warszawa
Co-Authors Dr Thomas Bak, University of Edinburgh, Scotland Dr Billy Lee, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Theme Theme 4: Building Long-term Human Capacity
Session Name 4.4 Circumpolar Health and Well-Being
Datetime Wed, Sep 14, 2016 10:45 AM - 11:00 AM
Presentation Type Oral
Abstract text With Antarctica’s harsh conditions of up to six months of complete darkness and blizzards, it is unsurprising that human well-being should be affected when wintering there. Most studies have concluded that mental health and mood decline over winter. Baseline levels are reached upon return home. However, these observations have not yet been repeated for Arctic wintering teams at scientific stations. The Arctic’s great predators, such as the polar bear, pose very different threats to isolated and confined communities, such as the Polish Polar Station (PPS), Hornsund, Svalbard. PPS experiences polar night from late October to mid-February and its winter team is isolated from the rest of the island for much of that time. This makes the PPS an ideal Arctic analogue to the Antarctic research stations at which psychological research has been conducted. Results may be generalised to other non-native, non-indigenous winterers in any Arctic nation and can inform the selection of winter crews.
The present study is on-going at the time of abstract submission. Ten out of 11 winter crew members of PPS are participating, three are female. The Profile of Mood States Brief Version (POMS) and Symptom Checklist 90 Revised (SCL-90-R) have been administered at PPS in July 2015/September 2015 and January 2016. They will be administered again in April and June 2016, to complete the assessment. Preliminary results suggest an increase in hostility and psychoticism from July to September, while hostility (F(df=2)=3.64, p<.05) remained constant and psychoticism (F(df=2)=3.66, p<.05) decreased in January. Further more, overall symptom severity increased between July and September (df=9, t=2.63, p<.05) and July and January (df=8, t=-5.81, p<.05). This implies that as people’s mental health declines, they become more hostile towards their co-workers which is initially accompanied by a greater need for isolation. This need declines, suggesting a micro-cultural adaptation to wintering over.
 Download to your calendar