Short and long-term health risks

short and long term health risks Laurent Taymans Charlie Easmon
ITIC Global 2019

Two of the industry's most experienced travel health professionals gave their views at ITIC Global 2019 on the risks travellers are facing

Dr Laurent Taymans began this session with a look at some of the correlations between business travel and levels of anxiety and depression, and mental health issues and non-communicable disease such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular problems. Issues such as suffering from a lower quality of sleep, being less likely to exercise and being less likely to eat a balanced diet are other aspects of business travel that impact on physical health.

Add this to the fact that 34 per cent of international business travellers (IBTs) are more likely to engage in risky behaviours – such as consuming more alcohol and eating in unhygienic places – when travelling on business, and that emotional exhaustion and suffering from low moods are more likely when on a business trip, and the need to look after international workers’ mental health, as well as their physical wellbeing, is obvious.

The annual cost of work-related stress in the EU is estimated at €617 billion, though a Deloitte study from 2017 shows that the average return on investment in the mental health of employees is £4.20 for every £1 invested. Companies that build a culture of health, then, yield greater value for their investors, through such factors as reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and fewer errors.

short and long term health risks Charlie Easmon

Dr Charlie Easmon

Focusing on other key traveller risks, Dr Charlie Easmon caught assembled delegates’ attention with his insights into future and current health risks for travellers, which spanned road traffic accidents, tropical flu and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Set against a backdrop of an exponential rise in travel, travel to more exotic locations, greater antibiotic resistance and more zoonosis (animal to human transmission), traveller risks are more prevalent than ever before.

Some are preventable, however, said Dr Easmon, such as road traffic accidents. Insurers should be looking at how safe the roads are in specific countries, whether visitors should drive in the country, what they should drive, whether a helmet should be mandatory, and put policies in place around traveller behaviour in order to help reduce related deaths. Similarly, there are preventables related to STIs, excessive behaviours and mental health issues while travelling; but some preventable diseases such as measles are likely to return in areas where they have previously been largely eradicated due to more people travelling with communicable diseases, in some cases due to the actions of powerful antivax groups. Other risks of particular concern are yellow fever being carried in and around India by mosquitoes, the threat of a pandemic flu, bugs making their way out of the Amazon due to deforestation, new STIs that are not vaccine-preventable, blood-borne viruses, and the increased likelihood of dengue cases. Key to reducing these risks is to educate travellers on the particular ways they can best stay safe and healthy when travelling to their destinations.