Lakehead Tries to Figure out Trucker Depression

THUNDER BAY, Ont. – Stress and poor mental health are already known to affect many longhaul truckers.

Now, researchers at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., are trying to pinpoint the causes.

“Risk factors for depression in truckers are currently poorly understood in the literature,” the university said.

“This study will allow for us to better understand factors that may influence the risk of depression in truckers.”

It added that the information the research generates can be used by all stakeholders in the industry to improve the working environment of longhaul truckers.

The project is led by Prof. Vicki Kristman and graduate student Nyasha Makuto, who will use the data for her master’s thesis, Risk Factors for Depression in Longhaul Truck Drivers: A Cross-sectional Study Design.

They are working with the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada (OBAC) to promote the study.

“We need to have real conversations about mental health. And we need better research that includes input from drivers themselves about what’s happening out on the road that impacts their health and well being,” said Joanne Ritchie, executive director of OBAC.

As a first step in determining the scope of the problem, the university is conducting an online survey on mental health issues.

“Ideally, I want to compare between American and Canadian and truckers,” said Makuto, adding that they face different working conditions.

Makuto told Tuesday that she would need 210 respondents to make such comparisons.

In the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a report released in 2018 that because of the potential for accidents, truck drivers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

That report followed a previous U.S. projection that more than a million American truckers will experience job-related trauma during their careers.

Recent campaigns by industry stakeholders have pushed the mental health of truckers to the front burner, with awareness workshops being held in various parts of North America.

Next month, Trucking HR Canada will host such a workshop in Toronto.