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Tips to combat loneliness on the road

5/6/2022

Loneliness is a very real problem for truckers, but it's one that can be addressed.

Maintaining a healthy weight is a struggle that affects thousands of truckers. In fact, studies show commercial truck drivers are two times more likely to be considered medically obese than the typical worker in the United States — which is a major problem for the country as it is. Indeed, much like it is among everyday Americans, obesity in trucking has reached epidemic status, affecting 70% of long-haul drivers compared to around 33% for the U.S. population overall.

But this isn't the only wellness issue that is widespread. So too is loneliness. Everyone can empathize with the feeling of being alone from time to time. But left unchecked, the solitary lifestyle that truckers lead can have lasting repercussions on their mental, emotional and physical well-being — making it something that employers need to proactively address and identify. 

Much like being severely overweight, loneliness is not a condition that is unique to truck drivers. Exacerbated by lockdown measures stemming from COVID-19, there's been a 181% surge in loneliness among the general public compared to before the pandemic, according to a report done by the research organization Roots of Loneliness Project.

Since most Americans are now back at work, feelings of isolation have eased for many of those affected, but that isn't the case for truckers since the job itself is largely a solitary one. The New York Times has reported on commercial drivers dealing with loneliness and says it's a contributing factor to the ongoing driver shortage. Even before any one had ever heard of COVID-19, loneliness was the top mental health struggle truckers reported to their primary care providers, Business Insider noted in a 2018 article, citing a study from DePaul University.

Many truckers enjoy the time that they have to themselves, but if you have any reason to think your drivers are having a hard time with being alone all the time, here are a few coping mechanisms that they may find effective:

Bring a pet
They may not be able to carry on a conversation, but dogs and cats make for excellent antidotes to loneliness simply by being there. The unconditional love that pets show to their owners brings the sense of connectedness that can mitigate the stresses loneliness can cause.

Make plans with loved ones or friends
Reflecting on wonderful memories is a great way to provide mental healing, but thinking about what memories will happen is another good coping mechanism. Your drivers having something to look forward to with friends or loved can help them pass the time more quickly.

Listen to engrossing podcasts or books
While being alone is a state of being, it's also a state of mind. The key is taking your mind off of it. A strategy that can work is by listening to audio books or podcasts. There are an endless number of options to choose from, be it sports talk, current events, true crime novellas and biographies.

Your drivers may often be alone, but they don't have to feel that way when they leverage these solutions.

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