MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – The main focus lately regarding driver health is on mental health, according to Healthy Trucker nutritionist and program manager, Andrea Morley.
She was speaking at ISB Global’s annual Biz and Breakfast Nov. 13. And she told attendees mental health deserves to be a part of any driver health program.
“We know drivers face a really stressful environment,” she said, citing depression, anxiety, anger, and addiction as possible outcomes. “It’s really important for us to consider and take seriously. It is receiving more attention than ever, for good reason. Five years ago, we just talked about physical health and how important that is. In recent years (mental health) has moved to the front burner.”
The two go hand-in-hand, Morley explained.
“If you’re in poor mental health, you’re a lot less likely to improve your physical health, and vice-versa,” she said.
Stress generates the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. It can increase abdominal fat, blood pressure, and the risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also contribute to fatigue, which can slow drivers’ reaction times.
“One of the biggest causes of collisions on the road is driver fatigue,” Morley said.
When taking their DOT physicals, drivers should report to their doctor any mental health issues they’re experiencing, but few do, Morley said.
“It’s a very subjective area of the physical,” she said. “It’s up to the doctor to decide, is this person’s mental health condition going to affect their driving, and do they want to report that in a way that makes them potentially not qualify for their licence?”
Morley said more research is needed into the link between mental health issues and reaction time for drivers. She also said there’s been an increase in brain injuries like concussions, and chronic injuries, especially among older drivers. Those can lead to mental health issues, especially if a driver is nearing retirement but not yet financially able to retire.
If an injury is sustained during a stressful period in a driver’s life, they are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, Morley added.
“What we need to do is, try to support them as much as we possibly can,” she said.
James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies