How to guarantee superyacht crews’ health and well-being


Superyacht life can lead to stresses and strains for the crew.

Yacht life certainly promises travel and adventure but the reality can be tough, writes Martyn Swann, business development director at Aetna International.

Rotational shifts and isolation from family and friends can take a toll on even the hardiest of crew members, and good quality health-care support has traditionally been hard to find or access from remote locations.

What’s more, working in such close quarters for long periods of time means even one person feeling out of kilter can throw the whole balance of the team off – less than ideal when a happy and healthy crew is so vital for the successful running of a yacht. So, what should captains and owners be thinking about to ensure crew members maintain and prioritise their health and well-being at work?

Beyond health and safety

While the daily challenges faced by crew members go far beyond straightforward health and safety requirements, offering appropriate support doesn’t necessarily entail drastic action. It can be the small changes that make a big difference to physical wellness, such as opportunities to exercise over and above the exertions of day-to-day work or access to fresh fruit, vegetables and plenty of protein. It’s also important to make sure everyone remembers to keep hydrated, especially in warmer climates.

Keeping people mentally fit is, however, a more complex issue. The ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality common to yacht life suits some personality types, but others can quickly become overwhelmed by an unforgiving schedule, potentially leading to physical and mental exhaustion. While camaraderie is an important element of a yacht crew – and establishing a strong sense of teamwork can go a long way in preventing stress and burnout – time alone can pay dividends too. Access to peace and personal space shouldn’t be underestimated and reading, relaxing, playing music, or doing anything else that helps the crew shut off for a few hours can aid recovery and restoration.

Healthcare support anywhere

Should yacht life start to become emotionally overwhelming for crew members or if they’re concerned about any physical issue, reliable, quick and easily accessed health care support is essential. Obviously, life on the open sea means that when a crew member needs to talk to a doctor or mental health professional, it can take time to get to the nearest hospital or surgery, which can leave everyone hanging around the port indefinitely. Even then, there’s no guarantee of the quality of care that will be provided.

This is where digital innovation really comes into its own to make life easier for both crews and captains. Having access to the right online tools from benefit providers can support all types of well being requirements, from sourcing the right on-shore medical help via extensive and trusted networks or being able to submit claims easily and directly, rather than through a third party.

Virtual health-care solutions and employee assistance programmes offer options to remotely connect with first-class doctors, qualified counsellors and trained life coaches by phone, app or email. Being able to connect with a professional who speaks the same language as you can also be tremendously reassuring. When you are travelling all over the world, it eradicates any language barriers which might otherwise run the risk of incurring misunderstandings affecting access to the right medical care.

These simple but effective approaches enable care to be personalised while giving crew access to the guidance and advice they need to improve their health. Whether it’s to help with the management of chronic conditions, to be pointed in the right directions for useful meditations and stress management resources, to access on-going counselling support or as a precursor to a face-to-face appointment, virtual health care provides straightforward access to high quality primary care. And, of pertinence, for crews, around two-thirds of people do not need to seek in-person care after their virtual consultation.

The key to ensuring that the right structures are in place to support the health and well-being of crew members are quite straightforward – a deep understanding of the issues that crew members commonly face and a broad understanding of the different solutions available. From getting the basics right to maximising the latest in digital innovation, the good news is that there are many ways to manage the health and well-being of superyacht crews effectively – and neither distance nor location needs to be a barrier to accessing the necessary resources.


About Aetna International

Aetna International is committed to helping create a stronger, healthier global community by delivering comprehensive health care benefits and population health solutions worldwide. Aetna International also offers customised technological and health management solutions for health care systems, government entities and large employers to improve people’s health, enhance quality of care and contain costs. For more information, see or LinkedIn.