Stress: the physiology and psychology of a training situation.
Harris, Rachel Armstrong
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HARRIS, R.A. 1995. Stress: the physiology and psychology of a training situation. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.
This thesis describes a study that aimed to assess the psychophysiological effects of offshore survival training, and to investigate whether responses of trainees differed according to age. A group of 99 subjects, randomly selected from across a wide age range, volunteered and subsequently were monitored during the training. The sample population were split into 2 groups according to the training course attended, refresher or combined survival and fire fighting course. Physiological and psychological measurements, chosen as indicators of stress, were performed on these subjects. Attention was centred on 4 particular events: helicopter underwater escape training (HUET); simulated platform abandonment using totally enclosed motor propelled survival craft; simulated platform abandonment into liferafts; and self rescue from a smoke filled room. State anxiety and urinary free cortisol were assessed early on each morning. Anxiety was also measured before the 4 chosen events. Early morning anxiety and urinary free cortisol were observed to peak on the first day of training, then each showed a very similar pattern of a decline to a plateau. On assessing all combined subjects' anxiety scores in sequence, values were found to be relatively lower towards the end of the course. These results suggested that subjects suffered from pre-course apprehensions that may have caused elevations in anxiety scores during the course. It was also found that subjects with high urinary free cortisol values on day 1, had relatively higher heart rates later in the course. Despite variation between the training courses, very similar mean heart rates were recorded in combined and refresher subjects. Relatively elevated heart rates were detected during the HUET brief. This was proposed to be the result of psychological activation, probably anxiety. Indicators of links among physiological and psychological measures were thus detected. Stronger and more consistent relationships may have been observed had more extensive data been available. Age effects were also detected, older refreshers had lower levels of anxiety, but found the course relatively more demanding. The lower anxiety levels were proposed to result from older refreshers having more training experience.