Smartphone app focuses on taxi driver health and safety


Thursday, 09 February, 2017


Taxi driver health and wellbeing is the target of a new smartphone app trial.

With drivers battling work stress that stems from assaults, long hours and unreliable incomes, almost two in three report high levels of psychological distress.

Research from the University of Melbourne has led to the development of an app that promotes stretches and short mindfulness exercises, and encourages peer-to-peer health tips among taxi drivers.

“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,” said Dr Sandra Davidson of the Department of General Practice at University of Melbourne.

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

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

“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,” said Davidson.

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

The app will be trialled from March 2017. 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.

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