An ongoing problem, around driver health issues within the trucking industry, is truck drivers not seeking help when living with untreated medical issues. A recent study illustrates the problem of under-reported health problems in the workforce.
A Linfox-funded study by Monash University revealed that Australian truck drivers suffering mental illness are less likely than any other workers to seek appropriate medical help, and that when they do, treatment is delayed.
The results also show that truck drivers have significantly more GP consultations and are more likely to undergo surgery than any other workers following work-related injury or disease.
The results form part of the third report in Monash University’s Driving Health Study which is a collaborative initiative supported by Linfox, Transport Workers Union and the NSW Centre for Workplace Health and Safety.
The study aims to provide insights that help keep drivers safe at work and ensure they are accessing the treatment they need when injuries occur. The study analysed 88,285 accepted Victorian workers’ compensation claims between July 2004 and June 2013.
The report identifies four different profiles of health service use among truck drivers. 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.
The 10 per cent of drivers accessing mental health services were more likely to be over 24, be from the lowest socio-economic band and be employed by smaller employers. These drivers showed a different pattern of health care use compared to other drivers.
The study found that 92 percent of mental health services were provided more than 14 weeks after acceptance of a workers compensation claim, potentially reflecting a missed opportunity for early intervention. This is in contrast with other health care services such as GP visits and physiotherapy, where peak service use occurred within the first three months after injury.
High health service users tended to be between the age of 45 and 64, live in major cities and have musculoskeletal conditions.
Drivers using only a few services were more likely to be younger, have an injury that did not result in time off work and have conditions other than a musculoskeletal injury.
Dr Ross Iles from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University said a concerning pattern was noted amongst truck drivers suffering mental health injuries, with 92 per cent waiting more than three months to access appropriate treatment.
“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,” says Ross. “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.”