Truckers’ depression could lead to accident: research

Truck drivers’ untreated mental health problems can threaten their lives, according to new research.

A survey of more than 1,300 truckers operating in NSW, conducted by the University of Queensland, has found that six per cent of drivers are suffering depression.

“It has been shown in Australia that depression has increased the odds ratio for a car crash,” Michael Hilton of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research told AAP.

The research showed only nine per cent of the drivers with mental health issues were seeking treatment, with the industry’s male-dominant culture being one of the major obstacles to improving truckers’ mental health.

“Males generally access treatment much less than females and males have less mental health literacy,” Dr Hilton said.

“We have a very stereotypical macho group, we need to train and educate these males.”

However, Dr Hilton argued more research should be done before applying the results to other transport operators.

“We need to know whether this is just in truck drivers or whether this is occurring in other aspects of the transport industry such as taxi drivers, bus drivers and train drivers,” he said.

Fatigue expert from the University of NSW Ann Williamson told AAP that while establishing the linkage between mental health and crashes would require more caution due to the “self-reporting” nature of the research, the relationship is worth looking into.

“One thing that isn’t surprising is that truck drivers are less likely to seek help for health or mental health problems,” she said.

“It’s expected that all they do is work and rest and when you work long hours driving long distances, making appointments to see a GP or counsellor is much more difficult.”

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