Truck drivers less likely to seek mental help: report


Linfox and TWU-supported study highlights psychological and physical toll of life on the road

Truck drivers less likely to seek mental help: report
It's not always a bright outlook for drivers on the job

 

Results from the third report of Monash University’s Driving Health Study reveal that Australian truck drivers suffering mental illness are less likely than any other workers to seek appropriate medical help, with the issue compounded by the drawn-out process to access treatment.

The collaborative study, funded by Linfox and supported by the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) and the NSW Centre for Workplace Health and Safety, also highlights the physical challenges of the job, with truck drivers requiring more GP consultations or surgery than any other workers following work-related injury or disease.

The study analysed 88,285 accepted Victorian workers’ compensation claims between July 2004 and June 2013 and aims to provide insights that help keep drivers safe at work and ensure they are accessing the treatment they need when injuries occur.

Altogether, about half (55 per cent) of drivers use only a few services, some (10 per cent) use a lot, a quarter (25 per cent) use mainly physical therapy and another group (10 per cent) seek treatment for mental health.

Key insights include:

  • truck drivers are more likely to undergo surgery due to a work injury and have more doctor visits compared to other workers
  • most of the health care that drivers access is provided more than three months after the injury and for mental health services
  • 92 per cent of drivers seeking treatment were waiting more than 14 weeks for help.

Physical and mental injury blights transport, study shows. Read more, here


Ross Iles, from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, says the findings are concerning.

"This report shows that truck drivers receive the majority of health care more than three months after an injury, but this delay was particularly apparent in mental health cases," Iles says.

"Prior studies show that drivers are at increased risk of suicide. Combined with our findings, this suggests a need to provide earlier access to mental health care in this group of workers."

Monash University’s next step is to facilitate "Australia’s largest survey of truck driver health" next year, exploring serious conditions thought to be common in drivers, including depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and sleep apnoea.

Iles says further research will better support the transport industry to manage the risks to driver health.

"This data provides important new insights into patterns of care, but it is only part of the picture. In 2019, we will recruit thousands of truck drivers into a new study that will provide much more detailed information about health and health risk factors in drivers."

Linfox response

Linfox Australia and New Zealand CEO Mark Mazurek says industry needs to do more to address the stigma surrounding mental health, with Linfox undertaking its Healthy Fox program to help improve worker wellbeing.

"As an industry, we need to do better in dealing with mental health and removing the stigma that can prevent people from seeking help when they need it," he adds.

"It’s clear that Australian truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to injury and we need to work together as an industry to develop proactive strategies to minimise these risks.

"This includes understanding the risk factors and ensuring greater access to health support services.

"At Linfox, our Healthy Fox program is focused on enhancing the health and wellbeing of our workforce through education, and through our partnership with Beyond Blue, we’re actively working to ensure mental health is discussed out in the open."

TWU: situation urgent

The TWU has called for urgent action to improve medical services for truck drivers, especially with the elevated risk of driver suicides, in response to the report.

"This study points to some serious issues in our industry when drivers’ health is failing. It is also showing major issues when drivers are delaying accessing treatment, especially for mental health problems," TWU national secretary Michael Kaine says.

"Suicide rates among drivers are high so waiting over 14 weeks for treatment is completely unacceptable. We need an urgent action to address the clear failings in our industry.

"This study confirms the experience of many truck drivers, their families and those of us who work closely with them. We know drivers’ health is put at risk because of the stress of the job.

"They are being bashed, broken and killed because of chronic fatigue, unrealistic deadlines, long working hours and social isolation.

"These risk factors must be addressed by looking at what is causing them - to do that we must look at the financial pressure from wealthy clients at the top which means drivers are constantly pushed to work harder."

 

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