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Read the full story at Pursuit, including a video of taxi driver Khalil talking about a working life on the road 

Cheryl Critchley
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Department: 
Media

A smartphone app will target taxi drivers’ ‘downtime’ waiting for their next passenger, to support them with tools and messages to improve their health.

 

Taxi drivers are battling a perfect storm of workplace stressors – from assaults, to 60 to 70-hour working weeks and unreliable incomes – according to University of Melbourne research.

Almost two in three taxi drivers surveyed by Dr Sandra Davidson of the Department of General Practice reported high levels of psychological distress.

Nearly one in three rated their physical health as only fair or poor – twice the average for Australian men.

“We’re all used to messages about cutting the road toll, but there’s another road toll that is unique to taxi drivers – the mental and physical health hazards they face on the job,” Dr Davidson.

“Taxi drivers are mostly male, shift workers, recently arrived in Australia, and either too time poor or reluctant to seek help,” Dr Davidson said.

 “The biggest challenge is enabling taxi drivers themselves to make small but important changes to their routines, given that they have lots of ‘dead’ time that they can’t do much with, because they have to get their next fare.”

The idea for the app came out of the survey and focus group findings that cabbies spend large amounts of time on their smartphones, but are unlikely to seek out specific mental health websites.

 “We found drivers are much more open to discussing physical problems like muscle tension and back pain than mental health problems,” Dr Davidson said.

The app, which will be trialled from next month, will promote stretches, short mindfulness exercises, and encourage peer-to-peer health tips.

It has been developed as part of the Driving to Health project, in collaboration with the Melbourne Networked Society Institute and the Victorian Taxi Association, with funding from the Shepherd Association