‘Fly in fly out’ workers suffer poorer mental health

| May 31, 2018

One in four FIFO workers experience high levels of mental distress – two and a half times higher than the general Australian population, according to a new study.

FIFO workers aged 25 – 34 and those on 2 weeks on/1 week off rosters were most at risk, and the researchers believe the major contributing factors were missing out on special events such as family birthdays, daily work tasks, shift rosters, and social isolation.

The research was conducted at mining and construction sites in South Australia and Western Australia, and involved participation from over 1000 workers. It represents one of the most comprehensive studies undertaken into the prevalence and contributing factors of psychological distress among FIFO workers.

Rural and Remote Mental Health CEO Jennifer Bowers said the stigma surrounding mental health remained a major issue for mining workers.

“Our research found that workers who felt there was stigma attached to mental health problems on site were the workers at greatest risk of high psychological distress. We also found that work expectations, relationship, and financial pressures were all key contributing factors to high levels of psychological distress.”

Mrs Bowers said that targeted investment needed to flow from mining and resources companies in order to tackle the growing and often complex mental health challenges facing workers.

“This FIFO mental health challenge requires prevention programs along with early interventions and an industry-wide response, but on the positive side, we’re starting to see the major mining contractors and companies renewing their efforts in delivering comprehensive mental health and suicide prevention programs and support for workers.”

“Cultural change is required within the mining sector and a commitment from management to mental health education, identification of champions and peer group support being vital to reducing the stigma associated with mental health.”

You can read the full study in the Medical Journal of Australia.