Screening and mitigation of layperson anxiety in aerospace environments

Robert A. Mulcahy, Rebecca S. Blue, Johnené L. Vardiman, Tarah L. Castleberry, James M. Vanderploeg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: Anxiety may present challenges for commercial spaceflight operations, as little is known regarding the psychological effects of spaceflight on laypersons. A recent investigation evaluated measures of anxiety during centrifuge-simulated suborbital commercial spaceflight, highlighting the potential for severe anxiousness to interrupt spaceflight operations. METHODS: To pave the way for future research, an extensive literature review identified existing knowledge that may contribute to formation of interventions for anxiety in commercial spaceflight. Useful literature was identified regarding anxiety from a variety of fields, including centrifugation, fear of flying, motion sickness, and military operations. RESULTS: Fear of flying is the most extensively studied area, with some supportive evidence from centrifugation studies. Virtual reality exposure (VRE) is as effective as actual training flight exposure (or analog exposure) in mitigation of flight-related anxiety. The addition of other modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or biofeedback, to VRE improves desensitization compared to VRE alone. Motion sickness-susceptible individuals demonstrate higher trait anxiety than nonsusceptible individuals; for this reason, motion sickness susceptibility questionnaires may be useful measures to identify at-risk individuals. Some military studies indicate that psychiatric history and personality classification may have predictive value in future research. Medication countermeasures consisting of benzodiazepines may quell in-flight anxiety, but do not likely improve anxiety on repeat exposure. DISCUSSION: The scarce available literature addressing anxiety in unique environments indicates that training/repeated exposure may mitigate anxiety. Anxiety and personality indices may be helpful screening tools, while pharmaceuticals may be useful countermeasures when needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)882-889
Number of pages8
JournalAerospace Medicine and Human Performance
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Commercial spaceflight
  • Mitigation
  • Psychology
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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