Know The Hidden Struggle: Surging Depression Among Truckers

A recent study sheds light on the stark reality faced by long-haul truck drivers in Canada and the U.S., revealing an issue of surging depression in OTR drivers compared to the general public.

Surging Depression Among Truckers: Know The Hidden Struggle

The open road, the endless miles, and the solitude of the cab – the life of a long-haul trucker is often romanticized. Yet, beneath the surface, there’s a less talked about aspect of this profession that impacts many of its workers: depression. A recent study sheds light on the stark reality faced by long-haul truck drivers in Canada and the U.S., revealing a much higher prevalence of depression compared to the general public. This article delves into the contributing factors and potential solutions to this pressing issue.

The Prevalence of Surging Depression

Depression is not just feeling sad; it’s a serious mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, and even thoughts of suicide. In the general population of Canada and the U.S., depression affects a significant portion of adults during their lifetime. However, long-haul truckers experience depression at an even higher rate, with studies indicating a prevalence ranging from 14.6% to 26.9% among U.S. drivers.

The Life on the Road

Long-haul trucking involves delivering cargo over distances that require travel for a day or more, contrasting sharply with short-haul trucking, where drivers return home daily. Truckers face long hours behind the wheel, legally up to 13 hours per day in Canada and 11 hours in the U.S. These hours are often extended due to tight delivery deadlines and payment structures incentivizing distance traveled over time worked. The result is a highly sedentary, stressful work environment with little control over work hours, leading to chronic fatigue and poor sleep.

Social Isolation and Its Effects

The nature of long-haul trucking often means days away from family and friends, leading to significant social isolation. The majority of U.S. long-haul truck drivers are separated, divorced, single, or widowed, exacerbating feelings of loneliness. This isolation, combined with erratic and overnight shifts, makes maintaining quality social relationships challenging. Social isolation is a known risk factor for surging depression, and the trucking lifestyle places drivers at a higher risk.

Work-Related Stress and Surging Depression

Truckers face not just the stress of long hours and isolation but also the pressure of tight deadlines and the physical demands of their job, including loading and unloading cargo. High stress from work and poor health are strongly associated with depressive symptoms. The study highlights that good health is negatively associated with depression, while high stress from tight delivery deadlines and being away from social relationships is positively associated.

Recognizing the Signs of Depression

Depression can manifest in various ways, and recognizing the signs is the first step in seeking help. Common signs include:

  • Persistent sadness or feeling “empty”
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Seeking Help for Depression in Yourself or Others

If you or someone you know is showing signs of depression, it’s important to seek help. Here are some steps to take:

Talk About It

Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or coworker. Simply talking about what you’re experiencing can be a relief and the first step toward getting help.

Professional Help

Consider speaking with a mental health professional. They can provide a diagnosis and discuss treatment options. Therapy, medication, or a combination of both may be recommended.

Support Services

Numerous resources are available for those dealing with surging depression. National helplines offer confidential support and can guide you toward local services:

  • United States: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting “HELLO” to 741741.
  • Canada: Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645.

Trucking Community Support

Look into support groups specifically for truckers. Sharing experiences with those who understand the unique challenges of the profession can be incredibly supportive.

One such support group is Truckers for Truckers (Fight Against Depression and Suicide) a private Facebook support group created to support truckers dealing with depression and thinking about suicide. They try to reach out to fellow truck drivers that deal with this struggle every day. They desire to show there are people willing to help in any way they can.

Navigating a Healthier Future Together

The life of a long-haul trucker comes with unique challenges that significantly impact mental health. Understanding the factors contributing to the high prevalence of  surging depression among truckers is crucial. As we move forward, it’s essential to provide support and resources to those in the trucking industry to help combat the hidden struggle of depression. The road ahead may be long, but together, we can make it a journey toward improved mental health and well-being for long-haul truckers.


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