Truckies at greater risk of depression

Truck drivers are at a greater risk of developing mental health issues than other Australians, according to Australian Rotary Health

By Ruza Zivkusic | October 13, 2011

Truck drivers are at a greater risk of developing mental health issues than other Australians, according to Australian Rotary Health.

While one in five Australians will experience depression each year, professional truck drivers have a seven percent higher chance of developing depression than other Australians, ARH spokeswoman Jacqueline Mercieca says.

Extensive working hours cause stress and anxiety which can lead to mental health issues, she adds.

"This subsequently contributes to associated substance abuse problems in truck drivers, as drivers who are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety were 27 percent more likely to engage in substance use to their own detriment, as these substances often exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety," Mercieca says.

A survey the group conducted found 13 percent of truck drivers experience depression but most of them do not choose to seek treatment. Some 65 percent of those surveyed state that they frequently work over the recommended weekly limit.

Drivers who experience moderate depression were found to be twice as likely to have an accident while on the road, and 27 percent of drivers who were found to be severely depressed were six times more likely to have an accident.

Addressing mental health through programs such as Mental Health First Aid is becoming a priority for several of industries, Mercieca says.

"For those in the truck driving profession, participating in mental health first aid could decrease the prevalence of depression and stress in drivers and therefore potentially also reduce their risk of accident on the road," she says.

Operating in the same way as general first aid, the two-day accredited course teaches participants to recognise the signs when someone’s mental health is being affected, such as anxiety, and teaches them to successfully intervene before professional help becomes available.

Developed in 2001, the course aims to improve the mental health literacy of participants and has proven to be effective through randomised controlled trials.

"By the year 2020, depression alone will constitute one of the largest health problems worldwide," Mercieca says.

"First aid training can assist in early intervention and in the ongoing community support of people with mental illnesses."

This week is Mental Health Week, which aims to educate and engage Australians about mental health issues through interactive events. 

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