Men make up the majority of long-haul truck drivers, and they face many occupational stressors as they traverse the country, carrying goods from place to place. But the long hours and isolating nature of the job doesn’t just affect their physical health — life on the road can also take a toll on their mental health. Here’s a look at the common emotional struggles of many male truck drivers and tips to improve mental well-being on the road.
What Does a Snapshot of Male Truck Drivers and Mental Health Look Like?
In 2012, researchers randomly surveyed 316 male truck drivers between 23 and 76 years of age at a large truck stop near Greensboro, North Carolina. Participants were given an 82-item questionnaire to fill out, and the results were telling. Truckers reported significant mental health issues:
- 27.9 percent reported loneliness
- 26.9 percent reported depression
- 20.6 percent reported chronic sleep disturbances
- 14.5 percent reported anxiety
- 13 percent reported other emotional problems
These figures are concerning, especially when one considers women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
Why is depression and related mental health issues so prevalent among male truck drivers? It’s likely that traditional masculinity and the fear of displaying weakness along with a reluctance to discuss feelings plays a role.
Many men also struggle with the extended separation from their families. Husbands and fathers routinely miss out on family events, holidays, and the joy of seeing their children grow. Long times out on the road can be very stressful in a marriage or relationship. And even if a trucker doesn’t have a family waiting at home, it can be difficult to feel a part of the community they call home when they’re so rarely there.
How Can a Truck Driver Take a Proactive Approach to Mental Health?
Life in an 18-wheeler may present obstacles most Americans don’t have to deal with, but truck drivers can take a few steps to improve their mental health while rolling down the interstate.
Improve Your Diet
Eighty-six percent of American truck drivers are obese, far exceeding the general population. Obesity brings a host of additional physical health problems as well as self-esteem issues. This statistic shouldn’t be surprising, as the nature of the job requires a sedentary lifestyle, with long hours spent sitting in the driver’s seat. Typical high-calorie truck stop fare doesn’t help, either.
As a truck driver, rather than eating at a fast food restaurant or diner when you pull in to fuel up, expand your onboard pantry and meal prep capabilities. For example, stock up on quick and healthy snacks that can help you cut back on fast food and gas station stops. A bag of apples, a bunch of bananas, and assorted mixed nuts will help keep you full.
Additionally, adding a power inverter to your sleeper compartment can improve the quality of the foods you eat. With a power inverter, you can expand your options with appliances such as a mini fridge, electric skillet, microwave, or slow cooker.
With this equipment and a stocked pantry, you can make soups, sandwiches, reheat leftovers, and more. Not only will you feel better eating whole foods and nourishing homemade meals, you’ll save money too.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, regular aerobic exercise can alleviate anxiety and depression and relieve feelings of low self-esteem and social withdrawal. Regular exercise can also improve sleep and increase mental alertness, which is key for a long haul truck driver.
Truckers may not be able to go for long jogs, but studies show as little as 30-minute brisk walks three times a week have health benefits such as weight control, increased energy, and reduced blood pressure. And the 30-minute walks can be broken up, too. Three 10-minute walks throughout the day are just as beneficial as a continuous session.
You should also get to know the amenities at the truck stops you frequent. Some locations have small gyms on-site, perfect for when you’re off-duty. Any physical activity you can work in throughout the day will only benefit your mental well-being.
Explore Your Faith
Many people turn to organized religion or spiritual pursuits to help them cope with the stresses of life. A deep belief in a higher power or the tenets of a specific religion can be very comforting to some. Many religions or spiritual practices have specific doctrines that apply to mental health struggles as well, and some find comfort coming together with other believers.
Unfortunately, many truck drivers are not able to regularly, physically participate in formal religious institutions because of job responsibilities. Thankfully, there are alternatives. With a turn of the radio dial, you can find religious-oriented programming. Podcasts are another option, and dozens of truck stops have on-site ministries.
Truckers keep our country moving, surviving, and thriving through their work. Without them, every aspect of life as we know it would come to a screeching halt. Arrow Truck Sales has been in business for over 70 years and understands the trucking culture and equipment needs. Contact us today if you need a new truck.