Personality as a predisposing factor for DCI: A pilot study

TitlePersonality as a predisposing factor for DCI: A pilot study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHarding, S, Gee, P
JournalDiving and Hyperbaric Medicine
Start Page134

This study aimed to identify differences in personality characteristics related to Decompression Illness (DCI) in recreational SCUBA divers. A matched control group of 9 divers (without DCI) and research group of 9 divers (with DCI) were recruited. Following a chamber dive (control group), or post-treatment for DCI (research group), three psychometric scales; Locus of Control (LoC), Sensation Seeking Scale, and Eysenck’s Personality Questionnaire – Revised (EPQ-R) were administered together with a Diving History Questionnaire and questions on motoring. One significant difference was identified and lay between engine sizes, with those experiencing DCI having cars with larger engines (p < .01). The data were inconsistent with previous research that suggested a relationship between sensation seeking and risk taking. Further research is needed to elucidate the relationship between diving injury and personality.

Practical Implications

Personality factors may help identify people predisposed to decompression illness.
Personality measures should be administered during training, to evaluate if the factors are state or trait.

Lay Summary

This study aimed to identify if differences in personality exist between recreational (non-professional) SCUBA divers that suffer decompression illness (DCI) or not. Decompression illness or the ‘bends’ is a condition caused when dissolved gases in the body form bubbles when the body goes from a high pressure (e.g. under the water) to lower pressure (e.g. at the surface) in a short amount of time occurs, it usually is caused by an activity such as SCUBA diving.
Various factors can lead to a diver getting DCI: Improper use or care of equipment and not following recommended procedures are among the leading causes. As these are examples of a poor behaviour, we can make the link that these errors may be related to the personality characteristics of the individual diver. In this study a group of nine divers without DCI and a group of nine divers with DCI were recruited. The recruits for the study  were ask to fill in several questionnaires, assessing personality, factors about their car and driving history and opinions on whether they feel that they are sensation (thrill) seekers.
One difference between the DCI and non-DCI divers was identified and that was vehicle engine sizes, with those who had experienced DCI having cars with larger engines. The average car engine size for someone in the UK is 1723 cc, the average of the non-DCI divers was 1730, very close to the national average, whereas the average of the DCI divers was 2288 cc, over a third above the national average and the non-DCI divers.
Although there has been limited research investigating personality characteristics of recreational divers, there has been considerable research on personality factors and risk in motoring. Like diving, motoring is an area where poor maintenance or errors in judgement can have serious consequences. Leading on from motor research this study aimed to identify possible personality differences between recreational divers who have experienced DCI and those who have not. This was a small study with limited ability to show differences between the groups; however it shows some interesting patterns were found. As a Pilot study it suggests that more work is needed to look at other characteristics.