Improving the health of Australia’s truck drivers

Oct 30, 2014

For Australia’s truck drivers, long working hours cause stress, raising the risk of them developing a mental health condition, which can then lead to substance abuse. While one in five Australians are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition at any one time, professional truck drivers have a 7% higher chance of developing depression than other Australians.

The transport industry is a critical part of the Australian business landscape.  But for truck drivers, they are at higher risk of developing a mental health condition.

While one in five Australians are likely to be experiencing a mental health condition at any one time, professional truck drivers have a 7% higher chance of developing depression than other Australians, according to Australian Rotary Health, which funded a survey of the industry.

For truck drivers, long working hours may cause stress, raising the risk of them developing a mental health condition, which can then lead to substance abuse. Drivers experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety are 27% more likely to abuse substances, which then worsens their condition, the survey found.

The survey revealed that 65% of drivers regularly work longer hours than recommended. For drivers with moderate depression, they are twice as likely to have an accident while driving, while 27% of drivers experiencing severe depression are six times more likely to have an accident.

A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on mental health in the workplace revealed interesting insights into the prevalence of mental health conditions in the transport, postal and warehousing industries. The report found that over the past 12 months:

  • 23.0% of workers have a mental health condition.
  • 6.0% of workers have a substance abuse condition.
  • 20.4% or workers have an anxiety condition.
  • 7.2% of workers have a condition affecting their mood, such as depression.

To encourage Australian businesses to invest in and focus on promoting good mental health practices and policies in their workplaces, beyondblue recently launched Heads Up, a joint initiative with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance (MHWA). Business leaders can sign up for a Heads Up Action Plan, which can be tailored for an organisation’s size, industry, needs and goals in the area of mental health.

Many organisations have already taken steps to improve mental health in the workplace.

Authorities such as Safe Work Australia, the National Transport Commission, preventionXpress and the Institute for Breathing and Sleeping have joined forces to help improve the mental health of truck drivers. This has included offering free and confidential health checks for truck drivers, focusing on weight, blood pressure and diabetes, while also issuing a lifestyle questionnaire.

The health checks help inform truck drivers about their risk of diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while also raising personal health risks such as alcohol, tobacco, balanced diet, physical activity, effective sleep pattern, fatigue and psychological health and wellbeing.

The PwC report estimated that Australian businesses were losing $10.9 billion annually for neglecting to address mental health in the workplace. However, businesses that take action will, on average, experience a return of $2.30 for every $1 invested in initiatives that foster better mental health in the workplace. In the transport, postal and warehousing industries, the return is even higher – an average of $2.80 for every $1 invested.

Create better workplace mental health: register with Heads Up

Strategies for creating a mentally healthy workplace can be developed by going to headsup.org.au where you can also prepare a tailored Heads Up Action Plan for your business. 


Heads Up on LinkedIn

If you would like more information and resources about how to create a more mentally healthy workplace, please visit our LinkedIn company page, which is regularly updated with stories and links related to the issue.

If you would like to join the discussion about a mentally healthy workplace, please visit our LinkedIn group page and become part of the conversation.

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