Markers of distress among behavioral and physical health evacuees prior to emergency departure from Antarctica

Jinu Kim, Anthony B. Cifre, Joanne Bower, Christopher Connaboy, Richard J. Simpson, Candice A. Alfano

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Although incidences of psychological crises occurring during space flight are reportedly rare, such events remain a distinct possibility and potential threat to future long-duration missions (e.g., a Mars mission). Extended residence in Antarctica offers an ideal setting for examining high-risk profiles for psychological crises. We therefore utilized data from a nine-month longitudinal study conducted at the McMurdo station to examine baseline and monthly reports of psychological and physical symptoms among four emergency evacuees compared to the remaining McMurdo sample (n = 84). Emergency evacuation occurred for medical reasons (n = 2) or for psychiatric reasons (n = 2). Evacuees were White, between 29 and 47 years of age, and mostly male (n = 1 female). There were few differences in evacuees’ baseline scores compared to the full sample. Monthly assessments showed elevated anxiety symptoms to be most common among all evacuees. Elevated physical symptoms were also apparent among a psychiatric and a medical evacuee in the months prior to evacuation. For one psychiatric evacuee, declines in positive emotions preceded increased problems with self-regulation before evacuation. While preliminary, findings contribute to sparse information about the symptoms that precede emergency evacuations from extreme environments and underscore the importance of regular, structured self-report assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-318
Number of pages8
JournalActa Astronautica
Early online date4 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Mental Health
  • Physical Symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Spaceflight
  • Extreme Environments
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Mental health
  • Physical symptoms
  • Emotion regulation
  • Extreme environments

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