by Pride Transport | Mar 04, 2022
With over 3 million truck drivers working in the commercial transportation industry, it’s one of the largest job groups in the United States. Unfortunately, in this growing industry, truck drivers are at risk for a range of work-related health-induced conditions (such as mental health disorders) due to high job stress levels, limited social support, and low access or use of health care. In a survey completed by the National Library of Medicine, truck drivers were found to have critical issues affecting their mental health, including anxiety (14.5%), chronic sleep disturbances (20.6%), depression (26.9%), loneliness (27.9%), and other emotional problems (13%).
Common Causes of Depression Among Truck Drivers
Depression is a common but serious health disorder. It causes severe symptoms that can affect how you think, feel, and handle daily activities including eating, sleeping, and even working. For a person to be diagnosed with depression, they must have symptoms lasting at least two weeks. Unfortunately, depression has been ranked as one of the most common mental health issues among truck drivers. There are many causes of depression. Some of the most frequently seen include:
- Stress from the job
- Solitary lifestyle
- Lack of sleep
- Poor eating habits
- Family issues
There are signs to look for that can indicate a person is depressed. Some common signs include:
- A short temper
- Feeling extra tired
- Losing interest in things that you used to enjoy
- Trouble focusing on certain tasks
- Changes in appetite
Depression can be associated with thoughts of suicide. Drivers who suspect any of these signs should seek professional help. Just like seeking care for a physical health issue, there is absolutely no shame in seeking professional care for mental health.
Connection Between Diabetes and Mental Health
Physical health problems such as diabetes can also be correlated to mental health issues. Diabetes is a serious health problem–not only an issue that affects millions of people across the country, but is also a common problem among truck drivers, in particular. Unfortunately, truck drivers have a 50% higher chance of getting diabetes compared to the national average due to certain lifestyle habits.
People with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have depression compared to those without it. Feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes can affect how healthy you are. Diabetes can make mental health issues worse and untreated mental health issues can make diabetes worse. Fortunately, as one gets better, the other tends to improve as well.
There are many things truck drivers can do to maintain a healthier lifestyle. For example, maintaining a healthy diet is one the most important things. Avoid eating fast food, foods high in sugar, or too many processed foods while on the road. If you are in a bind and need a bite quickly, consider choosing one of these healthier alternatives at fast food restaurants. Be proactive and prepare some healthy snacks such as nuts and fruits on your trip. Instead of energy drinks, consume coffee or tea. Exercise regularly. If you can’t find a gym or don’t have time to visit one while on the road, take daily walks.
Ways To Keep Yourself Mentally Healthy
Fortunately, there are things drivers can do to improve their overall mental health. One of the best ways to take care of yourself and make sure you’re mentally healthy is get enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation is another common issue among truck drivers and the issue should not be taken lightly. Lack of quality sleep can head to various health issues including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and truck driver depression. Get a better night’s rest by creating a regular sleep schedule, creating a pre-bed time routine (like disconnecting from electronic devices), and getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Other useful tips to boost your mental health include:
- Eating healthy foods – When you eat healthier foods, you’ll experience less mood fluctuations, improved focusing ability, and an overall happier outlook on life.
- Laughing as much as you can – They say laughter is the best form of medicine. Take time out of your day to chat with a funny friend or watch funny videos online.
- Exercising daily – Even if you can’t hit the gym while on the road, take a walk or stroll during your break. Many studies show that being out in nature helps reduce depression, helps increase your energy levels, and boost overall well-being. Truck drivers sit long hours inside the cab and getting some exercise and sun can help improve overall mood. See our list of exercises truck drivers can do from your cab.
- Trying journaling – Writing has many benefits for mental health including reducing stress, managing anxiety, and coping with depression (which has been linked to suicide). Journaling helps provide an opportunity for positive self-talk and identify negative thoughts or behaviors.
- Staying connected to friends and family – Driving on the road can get lonely. Be sure to check in and make time for family and friends when you can. A text, email, phone call, or FaceTime can help improve mental health. Social support is extremely important not just for truck drivers but for everyone.
How To Help Others Improve Their Mental Health
In addition to keeping yourself mentally healthy, there are things you can do to help others as well. Research shows that by helping others, you increase your own happiness and reduce stress. There are many small acts of kindness you can do to help others including:
- Donating items – If you have old clothes, books, or items you no longer need, donate them to a nearby local donation center. Many organizations accept these items and will share them with those in need.
- Paying it forward – If you’re a drive through window picking up coffee or food, offer to pay for the car behind you.
- Sharing what you can – Sharing shows that you care. Feel free to offer snacks if you’ve packed extra on the road. But sharing doesn’t have to just be with food. If you have extra tissues and see someone in need, sharing it might just make their day.
- Volunteering your time – There are many opportunities to give back to the community. Whether you’re skilled at cooking or photography, offering your talent to help others can greatly benefit everyone.
Mental illness can affect anyone, at any age, of any race or background. Fortunately, there are things you can do to maintain and improve your mental well-being. And while there are still some negative stigmas associated with mental illness, the trucking industry and country overall has made great strides to eliminate or reduce these harmful stereotypes by promoting healthier, happier lifestyle changes.