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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02235

Psychological hibernation in Antarctica

  • 1University of Bergen, Norway
  • 2Department of Psychosocial Science, Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen, Norway
  • 3Tilburg University, Netherlands
  • 4North-West University, South Africa
  • 5University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Human activity in Antarctica has increased sharply in recent years. In particular during the winter months, people are exposed to long periods of isolation and confinement and an extreme physical environment that poses risks to health, well-being and performance. The aim of the present study was to gain a better understanding of processes contributing to psychological resilience in this context. Specifically, the study examined how the use of coping strategies changed over time, and the extent to which changes coincided with alterations in mood and sleep. Two crews (N=27) spending approximately 10 months at the Concordia station completed the Utrecht Coping List, the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), and a structured sleep diary at regular intervals (x 9). The results showed that several variables reached a minimum value during the midwinter period, which corresponded to the third quarter of the expedition. The effect was particularly noticeable for coping strategies (i.e., active problem solving, palliative reactions, avoidance, and comforting cognitions). The pattern of results could indicate that participants during Antarctic over-wintering enter a state of psychological hibernation as a stress coping mechanism.

Keywords: Antarctica, psychological resilience, coping strategies, winter-over syndrom, Affect

Received: 16 Jul 2018; Accepted: 29 Oct 2018.

Edited by:

Marino Bonaiuto, La Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

Reviewed by:

Susana Alves, Çankaya University, Turkey
Hanns-Christian Gunga, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany  

Copyright: © 2018 Sandal, Van De Vijver and Smith. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Gro M. Sandal, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway, Gro.Sandal@uib.no