Academic journal article Review of European Studies

How Do Depression Medications Taken by Pilots Affect Passengers' Willingness to Fly?: -A Mediation Analysis

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

How Do Depression Medications Taken by Pilots Affect Passengers' Willingness to Fly?: -A Mediation Analysis

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

According to the World Health Organization (2012), approximately 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. In 2010, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reversed their stance on the allowance of antidepressant medications for pilots. Four types of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) will be allowed under the new rule: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), and Escitalopram (Lexapro) (AOPA, 2010). Prior research on the use of antidepressant medications for flight crews and air traffic controllers has demonstrated few adverse effects to the use of these medications while on duty. Concern was also expressed that in allowing approved and prescribed medications, aviation personnel may not hide medical conditions that would disqualify them from operations. Given the minimal adverse effects and open reporting channels, it was viewed as a favorable regulation change within the aviation industry. However, still to be determined is the perceptions of consumers if the pilot of their flight is prescribed antidepressant medication.

1.1 Mental Health and Depression

Depression is a non-discriminatory mental illness, it affects a wide variety of demographics (Depression & Bipolar Alliance, 2015). The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance indicated that depression could be diagnosed at any age, although the median age of onset is 32 years old (2015). However, some individuals may be more prone to depression than others based on genetic, biological, environmental, and or psychological factors (National Institute of Mental Health, 2015). Studies using MRI scans indicate that the brains of individuals suffering from depression appear to differ than those who do not suffer from depression; more specifically the regions of the brain that control mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior. Although certain environmental factors can also contribute to depression disorder, such as death of a loved one, trauma, or difficult relationship (National Institute of Mental Health, 2015), episodes of depression can arise with or without a triggering circumstance. In addition, over 80% of individuals with symptoms of clinical depression go undiagnosed every year (Healthline, 2015).

In addition to the varying factors that may cause depression, there are also several types. Major depressive disorder often occurs once or several times in an individual's life. This interferes with the ability to carry out daily activities, such as working, sleeping, eating, or relationships. Individuals who are suffering from major depressive disorder tend to lack enjoyment in life (National Institute of Mental Health, 2015). Persistent depressive disorder is diagnosed as a depressed mood lasting two or more years with bouts of major depressive episodes and episodes with less severe symptoms. Postpartum depression is due to the hormonal imbalances and physical changes that occur after pregnancy in addition to the new responsibility of a baby. Seasonal Affective Disorder, also referred to as SAD, is depressive symptoms that occur during the winter months when there is less natural sunlight. Lastly Bipolar, or manic-depressive disorder is the combination of cycling moods from extreme happiness to extreme sadness (National Institute of Mental Health, 2015).

Each individual differs in their severity, frequency, and duration of their depressive symptoms. Typical symptoms include feeling sad or empty, pessimism, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, irritability, loss of interest in hobbies or sexual activities, fatigue and low energy, difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decision, restlessness, insomnia, waking very early or excessive sleeping, overeating or loss of appetite, bodily aches and pains, headaches, digestive issues, suicidal thoughts or attempts (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 2015; National Institute of Mental Health, 2015). …

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