Why Do People Jump Overboard on a Cruise Ship?

By Robert Palmer

Cruise ships have become a popular way to take a vacation in recent years, but why do people jump overboard on a cruise ship? While the number of cases is small, the reasons can vary widely.

In some cases, passengers may be trying to escape an unhappy situation or are attempting suicide. Other passengers may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and become disoriented and fall off the ship.

One factor that has been linked to passenger jumping overboard is mental illness. According to a 2017 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, around 10 percent of individuals who jumped overboard from a cruise ship had some form of mental health problem. It’s possible that these individuals were not adequately assessed by medical staff before boarding the ship, which could have led to them being more prone to impulsive behavior during their time onboard.

Alcohol is another significant factor in people jumping overboard from cruise ships. A 2010 report from the International Maritime Organization noted that up to 30 percent of cases involving passengers jumping overboard involved alcohol consumption prior to the incident. This indicates that intoxicated people can be more likely to take risks and not think about the consequences of their actions.

Cruise ships also have many technical and design features that may contribute to people falling off them accidentally or intentionally. For instance, many ships are built with balconies where passengers can stand and look out over the sea, but these can be dangerous if they don’t have adequate safety rails or other features in place.


People jump overboard on a cruise ship for various reasons including mental illness, alcohol consumption, and design features with inadequate safety measures. Cruise operators must ensure they are taking extra steps such as pre-boarding assessments for those with mental health problems and providing adequate railings on balconies for passenger safety.