The stereotyped image of the overweight, unhealthy truck driver stubbornly persists in the public’s imagination for good reason – almost a third of American truck drivers display medical characteristics that fit the cliched image.
That is the conclusion of a recent study conducted by Atlas Injury Prevention Solutions. Over five years, it took a hard look at 15,165 truck drivers and workers employed in warehouses, terminals, shops and offices.
“It has been often stated that employees are a company’s best asset; or more specifically: engaged, empowered and healthy employees are a company’s best asset,” Atlas said.
“Research is increasing on the positive effects of health promotion programs within the workplace. Physical and emotional wellbeing have been linked to decreased turnover rate, improved job satisfaction, improved productivity, and overall improvement in work-life balance.”
Factors that were measured by the Atlas study included body mass index (BMI), tobacco use, age and gender, and how these factors impact driver and non-driver health. The study also outlines potential risk factors that contribute to health concerns facing drivers and other workers.
“Our goal with this paper is to inform health and safety professionals in the transportation industry on how to identify and prioritize higher-risk drivers,” says James Landsman, president of Atlas.
“In the White Paper, we use the results of our analysis to identify and justify recommendations to help companies reduce risk exposure and ensure better employee health and wellness.”
In particular, the research found an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes among these workers and truck drivers. This wasn’t based an on perceptions of their weight, but instead involved close examination of all the gathered data.
Of the 15,165 participants who completed biometric screening, 33% had at least three out of five conditions that are part of a disease predictor measurement called Metabolic Syndrome (MetS), the researchers found. MetS includes hypertension, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Individuals who are found to display a combination of three or more of these factors also possess an increased risk for developing medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Even more alarming, the researchers also found increased percentage of MetS in younger drivers: Drivers between ages 40 and 59 years shared the same risks as their 60+ year-old counterparts.
In addition, the study revealed that truck drivers are 130% more likely to smoke than their non-driver counterparts.
“Healthy lifestyle education and health promotion is important in all types of industries and is a critical factor in the transportation industry. Commercial drivers not only are subject to a sedentary job and lifestyle, but also live in their work environment,” Atlas observed.
“This places drivers at a significant risk for health issues and requires a need for guidance and programs to navigate challenges to improve their health and lead to career success.”
Atlas noted that the National Institutes of Health has said individuals who meet the guidelines of weekly physical activity (at least 2.5-5 hours per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 1.25-2.5 hours per week of vigorous physical activity) demonstrated an increase in life expectancy of nearly three and a half years.
On the other hand, obese people show a decrease in life expectancy of between five to seven years.