FIFO workers at high risk of psychological distress

Remote mine workers are at significantly higher risk of psychological distress than the general Australian population, according to a report from the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA).

The study, entitled Psychological distress in remote mining and construction workers in Australia, attempts to assess psychological distress levels in a 1124-person sample of remote mining and construction workers in Australia using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10).

Of the people surveyed, 28 per cent (311 people) showed high or very high levels of psychological distress in their K10 test scores, much higher than the Australian average of 10.8 per cent. The respondents were 93.5 per cent male and 63 per cent were aged between 25 and 44.

They were invited to participate from 2013–2015 via anonymous wellbeing and lifestyle surveys (“Toolbox Talks”) at 10 mining sites in South Australia and Western Australia, including four construction sites, three underground mine sites, and three open cut mine sites.

Some of the most frequently cited reasons for mental stress included missing special events (86.5 per cent), relationship problems with partners (68 per cent), financial stress and shift rosters (62.3 and 62 per cent) and social isolation (60.2 per cent).

The survey also concluded that FIFO and DIDO (drive in/drive out) lifestyles could “increase relationship and family strains, sleep disturbances, and risky behaviour, such as excessive drinking.

Male predominance in the resource and mining workforce and their low rates of help-seeking have motivated research into the risks of mental ill health in the FIFO population.”

The report found that among FIFO workers, psychological distress could be significantly higher among workers assigned to swing rosters with one or two weeks on as well as workers who had stressful relationships with their immediate supervisors.

The full report, which is intended as part of a prevention program by Rural and Remote Mental Health (RRMH), can be found here.

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