Cross-sectional study of the health of southern African truck drivers

Samanta Tresha Lalla-Edward, Alex Emilio Fischer, W. D. Francois Venter, Karine Scheuermaier, Ruchika Meel, Catherine Hankins, Gabriela Gomez, Kerstin Klipstein-Grobusch, Melvin Draaijer, Alinda G. Vos

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Abstract

Objectives Lifestyle and working conditions of truck drivers predisposes them to risk-factors associated with communicable and non-communicable diseases, but little is known about the health status of African truck driver. This study aims to assess a cross-section of truckers in South Africa to describe their health information. Setting The study took place across three truck-stop rest areas in the South African provinces of Free State and Gauteng. Participants Eligibility criteria included being males aged 18 years and older, full-time employment as a long-distance truck driver. A total of 614 male truck drivers participated; 384 (63%) were Zimbabwean and 325 (55%) completed high-school. Primary and secondary outcome measures The trucker survey explored demographics; working conditions; sexual, eating and sleeping behaviours; mental health status, medical history and cardiac risk-factors. Medical assessments included physical measurements, glucose and lipid measurements, ECG, carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) and cardiac ultrasound. Results In the previous month, 554 (91%) participants were sexually active; 522 (86%) had sex with a regular partner; 174 (27%) with a casual partner; 87 (14%) with a sex worker. Average time driving was 10 hours/day, 20 days/month, 302 (50%) never worked night shifts and 74 (12%) worked nights approximately four times per week. 112 (18%) experienced daytime sleepiness and 59 (10%) were ever hospitalised from an accident. Forty-seven (8%, 95% CI 5.3 to 9.5) were HIV-positive, with half taking antiretrovirals. Forty-eight (8%) truckers had some moderate depression, while 21 (4%) suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Reported tuberculosis, myocardial infarction, and diabetes were <3%. Prominent cardiac risk-factors included smoking (n=63, 11%), consuming alcohol (>15 drinks/week) (n=54, 9%), overweight/obesity (n=417, 69%), and hypertension (n=220, 36%,95% CI 32.1 to 39.7). ECG results showed 23 (4.9%) and 29 (5.3%) drivers had left ventricular hypertrophy using the Cornell criterion and product, respectively. CIMT measurements indicated nine (4.2%) drivers had a carotid atherosclerotic plaque. Conclusion This first holistic assessment of health among southern African male truck drivers demonstrates substantial addressable cardiovascular risk factors, mental health issues and sexual risk behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere032025
JournalBMJ Open
Volume9
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019

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Lalla-Edward, S. T., Fischer, A. E., Venter, W. D. F., Scheuermaier, K., Meel, R., Hankins, C., ... Vos, A. G. (2019). Cross-sectional study of the health of southern African truck drivers. BMJ Open, 9(10), [e032025]. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-032025