Medical and psychological problems faced by young Australian gap year travellers
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Background: Gap year travellers can potentially be exposed to many infectious diseases and other travel-related health problems including injuries and psychological problems. Currently, there is little information on health and wellbeing of this particular group of travellers. Methods: Participants were recruited from an organization that specialized in organising international gap year placements. Gap year travellers were asked to complete a pre-departure survey on demographics, placement destination and duration, previous travel experience, hobbies, risk taking behaviour, anticipated problems during the placement, and pre-travel preparations. After the placement, participants were asked to complete a post-trip survey on their experiences, problems, health issues, and medical treatment required. Results: The 88 and 34 gap year travellers aged 17-23 years completed pre- and post-placement surveys respectively. The duration of placements ranged from 3 to 12 months. Psychological stressors were frequently reported [n = 26 (76.5%) felt home sick; n = 18 (52.9%) experienced culture shock; n = 17 (50.0%) had difficulty communicating with the locals]. The majority of participants (91.2%) tried to work out a solution for the stressor on their own. Twenty-eight (82.4%) participants reported medical problems during their placement; the most common problems were sunburn (n = 19; 55.9%), respiratory infections (n = 15; 44.1%), weight change (n = 14; 41.2%), and diarrhoea/ food poisoning (n = 13; 38.2%). Three participants (3.4%) were admitted to hospital; for a muscle injury, head injury and skin infection after getting a tribal tattoo. Conclusions: Psychological stressors were common, but most did not seek help. Some medical problems encountered during their placement may have been preventable with improved pre-departure preparation. 1 International Society of Travel Medicine, 2017.
- Public Health [241 items ]